25 Sep

 A ten year plan to enhance and protect Somerset trees and woodland has been proposed by a consortium of organisations led by Somerset County Council. Thankfully at last one of the Council’s priorities is to put our money (that’s us the taxpayers) to create a greener, more sustainable Somerset. The strategy recognises their essential role in helping to tackle the crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. A partnership has been established between the Environment Agency, Somerset Local Nature Partnership, Exmoor National Park, Quantock Hills, AONB partnership, Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust. As I have pointed out in previous articles about our Trust, Somerset has 8% tree cover, much less than the national average and southern Somerset has even less than that. The Curry Woods and their connection to the woodland running along the escarpment above the West Sedgemoor wetland area form an ecological corridor, allowing animal and plants to migrate without human interference. Although this came about as a happy accident because of the steepness of the slope, much effort has been made in the past to cultivate as close as possible to the steepest slopes, thus making the corridor narrow. Now is the time to expand this corridor and plant in such a way as to capture carbon, help to ameliorate the chance of you burning in the summer, soak up water in summer and winter, help to stop the chances of you flooding and to greatly increase the biodiversity, giving some hope that your grandchildren will be able to understand the cycle of life and the role plants (in particular as they produce all our oxygen and food) and animals play in it. Work is already underway with the creation of three new posts, with funding assured by DEFRA. In particular their roles will be to support existing tree groups (like us) and encourage new ones. The full tree strategy is available on the Somerset CC website. The five themes are: Create a wood culture-everyone understanding the importance of trees to the County, its natural environment and its communities.Make our trees more resilient and adaptable. Protecting, expanding, manging and diversifying our existing treescapes.Expand tree covarage in Somerset.Create a range of services and products.Create a sustainable and flexible governance structure. As many of you will recognise, these themes, especially the first three, have formed the backbone of what I have been arguing for in CR since 2016. You have all responded magnificently and I thank you for your support. We were ahead of the game and have, by establishing the charity and setting up the Trust, put our community at the very front of this ambitious strategy.We have already established a good working relationship with the new post holders and will be working hard to identify new areas to plant trees and increase biodiversity in CR. We have worked together to already identified SCC land which may form the next area to be planted. Finally please visit the Trust land and as you walk the footpath look for the large anthills along side the path.This is the increase in biodiversity happening already.. There are now many anthills across the site and these form an important food source for yaffles (green woodpeckers-Britain largest woodpecker). Is it a coincidence that I have seen an increase in young yaffles in the last two years?-I don’t think so. I look forward to writing about the progress of this vital work over the next few months. 

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