Trust plant 400 trees for the future

Tuesday 5th December 2017

Tree planting (c) Rose Summers

A team of Cornwall Wildlife Trust volunteers have planted over 400 native trees to create new woodland for the future. The planting scheme, carried out this November on a farm near Helston, will bring benefits to wildlife and water quality, as well as providing an educational resource for schools and community groups.

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is working with Little Viscar Farm, near Helston, as part of the Upstream Thinking project, a South West Water (SWW) initiative to improve water quality in the River Cober catchment. Unwanted soil, silt, pesticides, fertilisers and animal waste in rivers increase water treatment costs. Working with landowners, the Upstream Thinking project aims to keep these materials from entering rivers in the first place by making changes to how agricultural land is managed.

This tree planting scheme is just one of many projects where farmers are making land management changes, including planting a wider variety of deep-rooted grasses and herbs. Deeper rooting plants and trees make the soil spongy, holding onto water for longer and then releasing it slowly. More areas like this can catch pollution before it gets to the river, as well as ‘slowing the flow’ during heavy rain which helps to reduce the risk of flooding in Helston.

Sue Hocking, Ecologist for Cornwall Wildlife Trust says,

“The woodland planting at Little Viscar is one of a range of measures we are putting in place to intercept agricultural runoff and enhance the wildlife value of the farm. Once established, the trees will slow and filter runoff from fields and a track. This will have the double benefit of improving water quality in the River Cober and helping to reduce the effects of flooding downstream.”

It’s not just water quality that will benefit, with the new habitat improving the condition of the river for wildlife and helping to protect Loe Pool Site of Special Scientific Interest at the seaward end. Sue designed the planting scheme and explains that “the trees, which include oak, holly, hawthorn, cherry and alder are being planted in an area with relatively little woodland.


Photo: Volunteer team by Rose Summers

The existing riverside vegetation and Cornish hedge network will form corridors for movement of species such as bats, birds, insects and small mammals between the new woodland and other areas of wildlife habitat. Work such as this is vital to combat habitat loss and fragmentation, two of the main threats to biodiversity in Cornwall.

Supported by a number of organisations, this task is a great example of joint working with shared benefits: The farmer provided time and machinery; the Trust’s Wild Cober Volunteers prepared the land and planted the trees; their farm advisers, funded through South West Water’s Upstream Thinking project, recommended and planned the work; funding for materials was provided by the Environment Agency; and the 420 trees and shrubs, which are all native British broad leaf species, grown from seed in the UK, were donated through the ‘Tree Appeal’. Once established, the owners, Nigel and Graeme Hicks, have plans to make the woodland available for outdoor educational use by local schools and other community groups to learn about the environment.

Nigel Hicks says,

“My brother and I have family connections to Little Viscar extending back to the late nineteenth century and for many years we have been very keen to enhance this important habitat in an area where trees are, by its very nature, relatively scarce. Thanks to the generosity of the ‘Tree Appeal’, that long-standing vision has now become a reality. Without the assistance of Cornwall Wildlife Trust and its team of volunteers, for which we are very grateful, the preparation of the site for tree planting and other important aspects of site management and conservation would not have been possible.”

Cornwall Wildlife Trust is supporting farmers, businesses and local communities to gradually improve the River Cober and Loe Pool for wildlife, water quality, and people. Please contact upstreamthinking@cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk to get involved, or for more information.