Woodland cover over the Somerset Levels and Catchment is low and many of the smaller woodlands are under-managed which can lead to biodiversity loss. Yet there is strong evidence that planting woodlands in the upper and middle catchments ameliorates downstream flooding To this end, Reimagining the Levels members plan to replace many of the trees lost to past river engineering and land reclamation and will be looking for volunteers to help with this.

The use of floodplain woodland as a ‘soft-engineered’ aid to flood control has been the subject of several studies (Environment Agency and Forestry Commission). In addition to the advantages of flood control and water storage, it offers improvements to water quality, nature conservation and improved landscape with potential for a recreational amenity. Bringing unmanaged woodland back into the economy and planting new woodland and trees where they will do most good, will also help build jobs and build value around woodland products and uses.

Trees for Somerset event – summary
The first Reimagining the Levels Tree event took place on the 7th November at Compton Dundon Village Hall, attended by a wide variety of people representing community groups and landowners, united by a love of the Somerset Levels and Moors landscape and their concerns over its future.

A series of guest presenters spoke to the topics (see below) and the workshops that followed focused on the need to move from discussion to action with ideas about community engagement through tree planting and woodland management. The need to keep challenging methods that degrade the land and increase flood risk through contact with MPs, Government agencies, farmers and landowners was seen essential by participants. The power of small groups to create change should not be underestimated.

Throughout the day, attendees were refreshed with a range home-made soups, cakes and breads all sourced from www.localfooddirect.co.uk and we received many compliments on the taste and quality. If you are interested in supporting this local business initiative that in turn supports local producers, do visit the website and see for yourselves the range of foods on offer.

At a post-conference meeting it was agreed that RtLs would contact all 330 Parish Councils in Somerset with proposals for adopting a Tree Policy that promotes community woodland planting and encouraging the appointment of a Tree Officer who can identify local land and negotiate with land owners. We will offer all interested parishes an opportunity to meet with us in June 2019, perhaps visiting nearby schemes to see first-hand the many advantages gained in enhancing both environmental protections and community engagement.

Additionally, RtL members will join with other like-minded organisations to promote sustainable agriculture and woodland growth. One of our members will be advising Defra on the newly formed Lowland Agricultural Peat Task Force.

Since the conference we have already lent our energy and expertise to tree planting to the approach of Wedmore by joining with Green Wedmore to plant 34 Lime trees. More ‘planting’ events are planned for January so do watch out for details on the website and Facebook.

Speakers at the Trees for Somerset event 7 November 2018
 
Session 1 Why are trees important?
Neville Fay (Sustainable Soils Alliance) – Trees and Soil Health
Ben Thorne (Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group) – Trees and Flood Control
 
Session 2 Policy
Graham Burton (Woodland Trust) The Woodland Charter
 
Session 3 Community led action
Jane Sweetman (Mid Somerset Outdoor Learning Partnership) Educational and Therapeutic Work in Woods
Amy Willoughby (Plotgate CSA) Plotgate Planting Scheme
Paul Laird (International Tree Federation) International Perspective on Community- led Planting
 

The first Reimagining the Levels Tree event took place on the 7th November at Compton Dundon Village Hall, attended by a wide variety of people representing community groups and landowners, united by a love of the Somerset Levels and Moors landscape and their concerns over its future.