A Summary of the “Trees for Water” Scheme in partnership with Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA), the Environment Agency (EA), the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group South West (FWAGSW) and the Woodland Trust

Reimagining the Levels has had an incredible tree planting season.  Altogether around 19000 trees left our newly established Nursery to be planted in Somerset.  That’s 19000 more trees to enhance the health and biodiversity of our landscape!

The Trees for Water scheme has been incredibly popular and understandably so.  It does feel as if people everywhere are finally waking up to the necessity for more planting and are looking for ways to do so.  Additionally, there have been a surge of people interested in volunteering with us and, despite Covid restrictions, we have enabled groups to participate in planting trees and shrubs safely on a number of days on six different sites.  These have been so much fun.

The Woodland Trust provided us with the bulk of the trees and shrubs for free – 37 different species of mostly native woodland.  These were delivered to our Nursery in stages, usually 3000 to 4000 a time of good, strong healthy plants, where they were ‘heeled’ in immediately to stop their roots from drying.  This way they were kept in good condition until required for planting. 

The Trees for Water Scheme was advertised mainly in South Somerset and Mendip Districts.  It was hard to know how to go about getting the word out that there were free trees and grants available to small landowners and we opted to publicise with the District Councils and two local magazines, the Leveller and the Mendip Times.  Somehow people seemed to hear and the requests came tumbling in.

Kate and Phil managed these requests and with members of the RtL team visited each applicant and site to assess its merit for SRA or EA funding and whether the land would be suitable for planting trees.  RtL are mindful of the need to protect already diversity-rich landscapes from unnecessary disturbance and each site was carefully screened to understand its ecology.  If the applicant met the criteria for Water Management, a process led by water pathway mapping, a Planting Plan was provided that advised on the most suitable trees for that landscape. 

We assisted 12 EA Riparian (riverside) Planting schemes to go ahead and 24 SRA schemes.  These varied in size: the largest had 1120 trees and shrubs, the smallest 50.  Kate estimated that almost 40 acres of Woodland and 1 mile of hedging had been planted with trees from the Nursery!  We planted trees and hedgerow in two local schools with Year 5 children and helped one Community Planting on a Recreation Ground.  Additionally, 40 other individuals and groups have taken trees from the RtL nursery.  Farmers, landowners, Transition Langport, Compton Dundon Village, Wedmore Wood and others.  The message that RtL is supporting local tree planting has really got out.

We already have around 12 schemes wanting to plant next season and we are hoping to expand into Sedgemoor and Taunton and West Somerset Districts.  We are also keen to grow the number of Schools and Community Plantings, involving and empowering people to positively connect with their local landscapes.

If you know of any suitable sites or landowners thinking about plantings, do urge them to get in touch.  We hope to match, if not increase the numbers of plantings we do next season.  And if you want to be put on our volunteer list for helping out, please let us know.

We would like to thank both the Environment Agency and the Somerset Rivers Authority for their foresight in recognizing the role trees have in helping climate adaptation, FWAGSW for their invaluable knowledge of Somerset’s varied landscape, and the Woodland Trust for their generosity in supplying the trees and shrubs that made it possible.

Reimagining the Levels June 2021