I was so pleased to learn this week that the government is to fund the planting of 12m extra trees in England by 2022 - the equivalents of 18 Sherwood Forests. However, I was a little shocked to discover how we lag other countries. Tree cover in England is just 10% - one of the lowest in Europe. Germany, France and Spain each have more than 3x our cover (see table); and the plan for 11m trees in rural areas and 1m in cities, will be just a start. The ambition of Sir William Worsley, chairman of the National Forest Company leading the project, is to increase tree cover from 10 to 12% by 2060. There's a long way to go!
What's undeniably true is his assertion that “Getting the right sort of trees on our street pavements has the power to transform an area and dramatically improve people’s mental wellbeing.” The plans are for more plane trees in London and lime, cherry, oak and rowan in cities further North, like Birmingham and Manchester. Northern mill towns and coastal towns like Clacton-on-Sea with limited pavement trees are being particularly targeted.
For those that are interested, local authorities and private individuals will be able to bid for planting funds. And, very sensibly, farmers will be incentivised to plant trees so they get "the same money benefit from a wood as from a crop of wheat."
This new initiative builds on the success of the National Forest, which has transformed nearly 200 square miles of old industrial land in the heart of England and attracts nearly 8 million visitors a year and has had a great impact on the local wildlife.
But what more could be done? It struck me that gardeners, particularly those involved in Open Gardens, are ideally placed to make planting happen at a local level, whether applying for grants or raising funds or chivvying local authorities and farmers to take action.
We know the difference trees can make: to the landscape, the environment, to health and well being, to our children and theirs. This country needs its trees!