Mendip Hills of Somerset, UK |
Charlotte’s Wood shows what Creating Tomorrow’s Forests are all about – using their expertise to create diverse, native, thriving woodland as a home for UK wildlife with benefits for people. In this case, a beautiful wet woodland and water meadow is being developed on an unused farm area. The habitat is perfect for amphibians and rare insect species, and will help to control flooding.
- Creating Tomorrow’s Forests have planted over 9 million trees across the UK to date.
- Their focus is on using ecologically friendly planting methods tailored to the needs of individual sites.
Good for Earth
Charlotte’s Wood is a previously unused farm field in an area that floods frequently. It is a wet woodland, which is a transient and uncommon habitat supporting a high diversity of rare insects, declining bird species such as willow tits, and even otters.
To create the forest, Creating Tomorrow’s Forests are using the Miyawaki Method, one of the most effective tree planting approaches for degraded land. The method involves planting native trees at high densities so that they become a ‘tiny forest’, and the trees have been shown to grow much faster, jump-starting forest creation. Higher biodiversity has also been recorded in Miyawaki forests than in neighbouring woodland, so it’s an ideal way to create diverse forest ecosystems quickly.
Miyawaki forests also absorb carbon at a faster rate than in standard approaches to tree planting as they grow more quickly and there are thirty times as many. Due to the high density, trees don’t get as large as those in other types of forests, but we think it’s worth it to rapidly tackle biodiversity loss in the UK.
The site is planted in two blocks with 15 different tree species. Black poplar and alder form the majority of the top canopy, and goat willow and bird cherry form the lower canopy. The shrub layer includes hazel, grey willow and wayfarer treeguelder rose. There is a pond in the middle with amphibian hibernacula and basking areas, and marginal aquatic plants are planted around the site, including yellow flag iris, water mint and ragged robin.
Positive for People
Charlotte’s Wood used to spend months underwater every year which made it hard for the farmer to use the land and negatively impacted surrounding fields. Thanks to the creation of a diverse, tiny forest adapted to local conditions, flood risk in the surrounding area will be reduced. Forests can help to regulate water by intercepting rain, slowing down surface run-off and helping water soak into the soil.
Forests have amazing benefits beyond climate action and habitat for wildlife. Creating Tomorrow’s Forests ensure visitors have access to the sites so they can benefit from being surrounded by nature, which has been shown to improve mental and physical wellbeing. They also provide jobs for planters, tree nurseries and ecologists across the UK.
One of the other aims of Creating Tomorrow’s Forests’ work is to help educate the wider public. The project provides opportunities for volunteers to take part in citizen science projects as we learn more about the outcomes of planting Miyawaki forests. This will help to form industry best practices across Tiny Forest networks. They also run a blog, interview series and special seminars, and they are developing new education opportunities with academics for children and young adults.
How does it work?
Creating Tomorrow’s Forests use the Miyawaki Method – known for rapidly boosting biodiversity.
- Survey local forest fragments near the site to identify which tree species would occur naturally and are adapted to local conditions.
- Decide the forest community structure and carry out a soil survey to decide what mulch and nutrients are needed.
- Collect seeds from local trees or obtain seedlings of local variants of the trees.
- Plant native seedlings at high densities (20,000 to 30,000 per hectare) into the mulch to accelerate the regeneration process that occurs in natural forests when a clearing in the tree canopy opens up due to a larger tree falling.
- Help the pioneer forest to grow by watering regularly and keeping the site weed-free for the first 2 years
- Allow the forest to become a multi-layered forest community over 20 to 30 years (as opposed to hundreds).
Where on Earthly?
The planting plot is located in the Mendip Hills of Somerset, UK.
Project SDGs *Sustainable Development Goals
Why this Project?
We chose to partner with Creating Tomorrow’s Forests because of their commitment to creating natural, diverse landscapes that include native trees and space for biodiversity to thrive. In the UK, woodlands only cover 13% of land area, yet they are a priority habitat for nature-based solutions that support people, biodiversity and climate mitigation. Regenerating wet woodlands like Charlotte’s Wood is an opportunity to begin regaining these lost forests.
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