Winter tree planting at River of Life II

Published December 2021

Although it might feel like winter is a time for slowing down, at Earth Trust it’s one of our busiest times of year! As the last of the leaves fell from the trees, staff and volunteers were getting ready to begin hedgelaying, coppicing and tree planting – and this year we’ve got more than 3,800 young saplings to get in the ground!

The need for planting

Often areas of woodland are naturally regenerated by seedlings from surrounding trees, but sometimes additional planting is needed, particularly where new habitat is being created. 2021 saw the creation of 46,000m2 wetlands as part of the River of Life II project, and trees are now being planted at two of these sites to create even more biodiverse spaces.

In Little Wittenham Wood, 625 trees will be planted around Lucy’s Ponds to provide scrub habitat around the water’s edges and support amphibians like frogs, toads and newts, as well as dragonflies, damselflies and bats.

At Church Farm, alongside a large backwater connected to the River Thames, a new woodland is being created with 3,210 trees going in. Sitting near to both open water and grazed grassland, this woodland will add a layer of diversity that will support wildlife even further, including providing shelter and food for small birds, invertebrates and amphibians.

People and planet

More than 11 different tree species have been chosen including alder, aspen, blackthorn, black poplar, dog rose, oak and willow. Each of these will do well in wet ground and will be able to cope with annual flooding, ensuring that the woodland is able to mature and support wildlife for many generations to come.

“We have already seen stonechat flying from tree guard to tree guard today, a kestrel hovering overhead and kingfishers on the edge of the backwater.” Tim Read, Senior Ranger

This new habitat won’t just benefit wildlife though, as it will also enhance natural spaces for people to explore, help absorb flood waters in the winter and soak up carbon from the atmosphere.

As the world faces the impacts of climate change, having the right trees in the right places is vital to not only help alleviate some of these effects, such as flooding, but to also do our part to fight climate change. According to government-backed figures, once established the new 1.6 hectares of woodland at Church Farm could return as much as 640 tonnes of carbon per year.

 A huge thank you to all of our volunteers for the many hours they have put in this year, and particularly with planting so many trees this December!