Colchester Tree Planting 2020

Eco Colchester’s Tree and Hedge Hand out has been another success for the second year running

A person and person standing next to a tree

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Last year (2019) Eco Colchester took part in the ‘TCV I Dig Trees’ campaign. We received and handed out 950 native and wildlife friendly tree, shrub and hedge saplings to organisations and individuals across Colchester. Despite the pandemic, this year (2020/2021) was no exception.  We received another 950 species, mostly hedges at the start of February and our amazing community have been out planting them in an attempt to ‘Green Colchester’.

It is very important that we plant the right tree in the right place. Some tree planting, while well intended can have unintended consequences. Too many trees planted in the wrong place can threaten other habitats that are needed for balanced, biodiverse eco-systems. For example, grassland and heathland, which are also important habitats are also important for carbon capture. We feel strongly that planting hedges and trees in urban environments such as schools and church grounds are an effective way of adding value to sterile and bland urban environments. Of more importance and even better for natural habitats is to allow areas to ‘rewild’ with little assistance from us.

Colchester has 45 nurseries, schools and colleges in areas where air pollution levels are above the World Health Organization-recommended limit of fine particulate matter (PM2.5). This is the most harmful type of air pollution for human health and particularly affects children and asthma sufferers.

One way to help remove these toxins in the air (apart from removing polluting cars in the first place) is having more trees and hedges on school sites and particularly on the boundaries. Not only as a barrier from the cars but as a ‘green lung’ absorbing the toxins and replacing them with fresh oxygen.

It will be some time before these 2-3 year old whips will be actively ventilating, but getting them into the ground at this age gives them more chance of longer term survival. With correct management, these hedges will be helping to protect our children from the effects of air pollution within 3-7 years.

With all this in mind, we felt it important to ask schools to participate in this years tree and hedge handout.

What hedge and trees were planted?

All species we’re native and chosen for their suitability to this region and for wildlife.

  • Downy Birch
  • Mountain Ash/Rowan
  • Aspen
  • Wild Cherry
  • Field Maple
  • Bird Cherry
  • Hazel
  • Common Crab Apple
  • Grey Willow
  • Hawthorn
  • Blackthorn
  • Dog Rose
  • Dog wood
  • Goat willow
Crab apple trees being planted at Essex Wildlife Trust nature nursery

Where have the hedges and trees been planted?

  • Colchester Hospital
  • Stanway Fiveways Primary School
  • Birch Church of England Primary School
  • Essex Wildlife Trust Nature Nursery
  • St Anne’s Church
  • Mercer’s Farm Allotments
  • Christchurch church and pre-school

School hedge planting

“The tree planting was a great experience as the children in Year 6 were involved in planting them. It gave some children a new experience and was a nice practical activity. The children used teamwork skills too. By involving the children I think it will give them more sense of ownership and help them want to look after our school grounds.”

Stanway Fiveways Primary School

‘’ Our children are passionate about climate change and learning about the impact we have on the world we live in and how we can improve our environment. We were therefore very excited to learn that we had been chosen to receive the hedgerow needed to finish the border of our school field, as this gave us an opportunity to further extend their learning and gave the children the opportunity to get involved with a project that will have a long lasting, positive impact on the environment and their communities carbon footprint.

A person and person standing next to a tree

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The trees arrived during lockdown when we only had our key worker children in school, so we decided to use this as an opportunity to plan a whole school ‘Tree day’ experience. For the key worker children who were able to get involved with the actual planting we had a fabulous day of outdoor learning. The children helped to dig the ground and plant the trees. They also ensured the ratio of the different native hedgerow was correct and therefore learnt more about what makes up a native hedgerow. We then linked this with some work through The BBC’s Terrific Scientific programme. This was accessed by the tree planting children in school and those at home. In addition to this we planned lots of other ‘tree day’ activities for the home-schooling children. The reason for planting was 2-fold, firstly for carbon off setting and secondly to improve the diversity of insects’ birds and small mammals. We hope in the future to also instal a Barn Owl box to encourage Barn Owls at our site.’’

Birch Church of England Primary School

Planting Trees and Hedges is not just about nature……

It is very easy to think that as an environment group our only focus is on the environment, but humans are a part of the environment, we are not separate from it. When we have a healthy environment and a healthy relationship with our environment, we have healthy humans. Everything we depend on comes from the environment. We see so much mental and physical illness resulting from our busy lifestyles and disconnection from nature. We therefore do what we do to improve the health of the environment and therefore the health and wellbeing of people.

We proudly joined the #IDigTrees phenomenon with @TheConservationVolunteers and @OVOEnergy – helping local communities plant even more carbon-busting #trees in 2021!

By Grace Darke
Volunteer Co-ordinator Eco Colchester

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