Trees for Climate project at Picton helping nature to thrive

Cheshire West and Chester Council and The Mersey Forest are playing a leading role by acting as the legal accountable body for the national Trees for Climate programme.

The Mersey Forest is one of 12 Community Forests across England delivering the programme, transforming landscapes and communities across Merseyside and Cheshire.

Launched in November 2020, the programme is significant in the Government's commitment to address climate change and carbon mitigation. Across Cheshire and Merseyside, nearly 44 hectares of new woodland has been created in the last year, in urban parks and green spaces and on private land and farmland.

In west Cheshire, The Mersey Forest team works closely with the Council to identify suitable land to plant trees, as part of the drive for carbon neutrality as a borough by 2045.

One of the sites selected was Council-owned land in rural Picton, near Chester, with far reaching views across to the industrial area of Ellesmere Port - this industrial area aspires to be the world's first low carbon industrial cluster by 2030.

The site is on the North Cheshire Way national footpath, which provides 70 miles of waymarked walking from Wirral to the Peak District.

Woodland advisors identified the best species of trees to thrive on the land, along with a planting design.

The site offered an opportunity to establish six hectares of native broadleaved woodland with some areas left to conserve historical features and other, non-woodland, habitats for local wildlife.

A native woodland was planted, including some species such as beech and a standard oak tree, which predators such as owls hunt from. As the woodland continues to thrive, it will develop into an increasingly attractive habitat for wildlife, with two newt ponds recently created on its edge to enhance it further.

In total, 12,366 trees and 305 metres of hedgerows were planted at Picton. When fully established, it is estimated that these will store 2,326 tonnes of carbon over 100 years.

The funding sourced for Picton has gone further than planting trees. New infrastructure, including stiles and a footbridge, has been installed along the national footpath helping make the woodland more accessible. We have also sown six hectares of species rich native wildflower meadows to recreate the traditional floodplain meadows that would have once existed across the wetter part of the site, compensating for habitat loss in other parts of the borough.

These improvements will not only capture carbon and be a haven for local wildlife, they will also help to get communities out in nature, supporting health and wellbeing and connecting people with their local area.

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