Two of England’s largest woodlands will be connected for the first time as part of a new reforesting project in honour of the late Queen.
A 60-mile-long corridor of hedgerows and woodland will be cultivated from the Wyre Forest in the north to the Lower Wye Valley and the Forest of Dean in the south of England as part of a legacy project of the Queen’s Green Canopy, an initiative that invited people to plant trees to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.
While Wyre Forest is the largest woodland Natural Nature Reserve in the country, the surrounding landscape has seen a decline in tree numbers due to ash dieback disease, among other causes.
To help wildlife to survive in the space between the two forests, trusts in Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire have teamed up to cultivate what they say will become: “A wooded landscape at a scale never seen in the region before.”
Dr Juliet Hynes, Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust’s head of ecological evidence, said: “It will provide a fantastic opportunity for local communities, landowners and farmers to build a closer relationship with trees.
“Trees and hedgerows can help to tackle the impacts of climate change – providing livestock with shade in the summer, fruit and nuts for birds and small mammals in the winter and increased water infiltration.
“What’s more, the wellbeing benefits of being in nature and around trees are well known and vital to our health and happiness,” she added.
The Tree Council has said that hedges are “incredible for wildlife”, as they “mimic the rich habitat structure of a woodland edge”.
“This is a place where two habitats overlap, where the wildlife of each can meet and interact. This means that to an extent hedges can accommodate woodland species, scrub species and even some that prefer more open areas. And trees are a vital component of this vital hedgerow habitat,” it added.
Much of the space between the two forests is occupied by farmland. According to the Tree Council, planting hedges can help farmers by protecting soil from erosion, providing shelter for animals in winter, reducing deaths from exposure, and offering shade for livestock helping maintain milk yields, fertility and condition.
The project will be funded by the Trees Call To Action, a fund developed by Defra in partnership with the Forestry Commission, and supported by Herefordshire County Council, Worcestershire County Council, Gloucestershire County Council and Severn Trent.