Farming News - Farmers to plant trees funded by the ‘England Woodland Creation Offer’ grant

Farmers to plant trees funded by the ‘England Woodland Creation Offer’ grant

Over 3,000 hectares of new woodlands are set to be planted along England’s rivers and watercourses with backing from the country’s leading environmental organisations, Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith has announced.

Planting trees on and around riverbanks, or allowing them to grow naturally, can help to improve water quality by blocking the runoff of pollutants into rivers, manage flood risks by slowing the flow of water, boost biodiversity by creating new habitat corridors and make our rivers more climate resilient by providing shade and cooling water temperatures. There are 242,262km of watercourses in England, and it is hoped that by planting trees in this way they will contribute to a natural network of habitats across the country as part of our plans to expand, improve and connect these places across our towns, cities and countryside.

A wide river is in view in a valley in the background, a drystone wall is behind the river, and large, green trees are prominent in the scene.

The ‘Woodlands for Water’ project aims to create 3,150 hectares of trees in six river catchment areas from Devon to Cumbria by March 2025. To support farmers and landowners to create these woodlands, they will be able to apply for funding through the ‘England Woodland Creation Offer’ grant which provides greater financial incentives for landowners and farmers to plant and manage trees, including along rivers and watercourses.

The National Trust Director of Land & Nature Harry Bowell said:

“With 90 per cent of UK floodplains ‘not fit for purpose’ and creating flood issues for communities, we fully recognise the value of trees to our river corridors in helping to slow flood waters, soak up carbon and keep rivers cool in the face of rising temperatures. This work will enhance the projects we already have underway where our primary focus has been the conservation and health of the river channel itself. This partnership and funding will allow us to look at the wider river corridor to further enhance this work.” 

Forestry Commission Chair Sir William Worsley said:

“I am delighted to be working with partners to launch the Woodlands for Water project and deliver another major part of the England Trees Action Plan.

“By putting the right trees in the right place, helped by our new England Woodland Creation Offer, the Woodlands for Water project can offer numerous benefits, from creating new woodland habitats; protecting existing habitats such as chalk streams; improving environments for fish by reducing water temperature, and helping rivers adapt to climate change.”

Supported by Defra, the project will be carried out by the ‘Riverscapes’ Partnership comprising of experts from the Rivers Trust, National Trust, Woodland Trust and Beaver Trust, which will be on hand to provide expert assistance in the selected river catchment areas across England, ensuring there is pipeline of projects for riparian planting in future years.This announcement is a key action of the recently published England Trees Action Plan which outlined the Government’s strategy to get more trees in the ground that will help to deliver wide ranging benefits for nature, climate and people, and contributes towards the commitment to treble planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament.

CLA President Mark Bridgeman said:

“This new woodland creation partnership is a real boost for the sector.

“It will enable private landowners to work alongside institutional landowners to plant more trees in the six river catchments which, if planted in the right place, will help reduce water pollution, address flood risk and boost nature recovery.

“It’s definitely worth private landowners making the most of the grants through the England Woodland Creation Offer as they cover the costs of planting, provide flexibility on what you can plant and where and there are financial incentives for delivering public benefits. It’s schemes like this which are key to achieving biodiversity recovery.”