This winter spades will once again break turf across Bradford as much-needed trees are planted.
Staff and volunteers from the Forest of Bradford (FoB) will turn out in all weathers to increase tree cover in the district and, in some areas, help to reduce the threat from flooding.
This year, the project’s work will be boosted by a £10,000 cash injection after it bagged the environment category prize in Yorkshire Bank’s ‘Spirit of the Community’ awards.
The award will enable the project to carry out a targeted tree and hedge planting programme in various areas of the Upper Aire Valley with the aim of reducing the incidence of flooding and improving water quality in rivers.
“It is targeted tree and river bank stabilisation work,” says FoB manager Ian Butterfield. “The European Water Quality Directive includes reducing agricultural run-off entering rivers. Tree and hedge planting allows it to filter into the soil rather than run across it,” says Ian. “This can reduce the intensity and frequency of flood incidents.”
He adds: “Soil run-off and the erosion it causes produces suspended sediment which has all sorts of effects on the ecology of the water. For fish such as trout the cleaner the water the better.”
FoB – which is part of Bradford Environmental Action Trust (BEAT) – will use local media, local groups and the National Farmers’ Union to contact farmers and other landowners to alert them to the work and invite them to get involved. “The money will help us to generate an interest among landowners to plant trees,” says Ian.
“Over the past ten years there has been a marked increase in the number of incidents of flooding – it is certainly linked to climate change,” says Ian. “We can expect more extreme conditions and situations such as flash floods.
“It impacts upon farming practices, livestock, businesses and people’s homes. It is a massive issue that has knock-on effects through the Aire Valley right down to Shipley and into Leeds. “This is a way of building a landscape that is more robust. Not all flooding problems can be put right with costly engineering projects – this is a form of ‘soft’ but effective engineering that we hope will start to redress it.”
Further up the valley slopes native broadleaf trees including oak, birch, hawthorn and hazel will be planted, with wetland-friendly alder and willow closer to the valley bottom.
“We aim to establish between six and seven acres of woodland in the Upper Aire, that’s about six football pitches, composed of small blocks,” says Ian.
Planting will mainly take place along tributaries. “The planting has got to look well in the landscape too, it is not like it was in the seventies, with rectangular blocks of trees,” adds Ian.
FoB was set up in 1998 with the aim of establishing 480 hectares of native woodland, equivalent to one million trees.
At the time Bradford district had around 4.2 per cent woodland cover compared with an average of between ten and 11 per the UK. Now we have between six and 6.5 per cent, while the UK average has climbed to between 12 and 14 per cent.
Last winter it reached a key milestone, with 500,000 trees planted – half way towards its one million target. Last year 30,000 trees were planted. Already, plans have been made to plant around 22,000 trees during the coming planting season, from now until spring.
“We would like to reach 30,000 each year,” says Ian. “We will hopefully have reached 600,000 by next September.”
FoB pay for the trees, plant them and care for them as they grow.
The project complements similar work being carried out in the area by the Environment Agency and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, some of which BEAT has contributed to as a partner organisation.
This is the third year that the ‘Spirit in the Community’ awards – with winners sharing £75,000 in funding – have been allocated.
In July 2008 the Yorkshire and Clydesdale Bank Foundation was launched to support people and their local communities. The foundation provides funds to help registered charities, not-for-profit organisations, community and other voluntary organisations make life safer, healthier and better for all of us.
“We were not expecting to win it,” says Ian. “We were among four chosen as finalists. It is great to raise our profile – it often leads to other things.”
The FoB’s work could not be carried out were it not for the army of volunteers that helps plant. “They are vital to us,” says Ian, “We always need help, whether from individuals, groups or businesses.”