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Tree Wardens

2021 in review: the first ever National Hedgerow Week, COP26 and new research

The Tree Council

January 21, 2022

Man in sunglasses talking to a hedge

Before 2022 truly takes root, we thought it only appropriate to look back at 2021 and take stock of everything you, our awesome funders, partners and supporters made possible. After all, they say a tree is only known by its fruit. Read on for a round-up of last year’s best moments, including the debut of National Hedgerow Week.

The inaugural National Hedgerow Week

Collage of activities from National Hedgerow Week: photos, social media and press

Early this summer, we made history by holding the first ever National Hedgerow Week.

Hedges are incredible. These carbon-guzzling, wildlife-protecting, pollution-absorbing heroes are the UK’s largest priority habitat, supporting more than 2,000 diverse species – yet sadly, more than 50% of the UK’s hedgerows have been lost since WWII and those that remain are often mismanaged or under threat.

National Hedgerow Week was an opportunity for all of us to take notice of these often-overlooked heroes and celebrate all things hedgy. The week featured a range of lively hedge-inspired activities and events and saw the distribution of the UK’s first All Natural Hedgefunds, granting more than £500,000 to community groups and farmers to fill hedgerow gaps and plant 53 kilometres of new hedges. We also worked with the Hedgelink partnership to update the Hedgelink website – a fantastic resource for all things hedgy.

Growing a greener future

Five happy school children sitting outside on bench learning about trees.

Wow what a year! Since launching in October 2020 our national schools programme has engaged with more than 3,000 schools, inspiring young people to take action through two flagship platforms, Orchards for Schools and Young Tree Champions.

Orchards for Schools sprung into life last year thanks to a Daily Mail campaign, with over 780 schools signing up for free orchard or hedge packs. The programme’s mission is to bring school children and trees together, providing the tools and opportunities for youngsters to grow a healthier future for all life on earth. Fruit trees and fruiting hedgerows have now been planted in hundreds of schools across the UK, enabling a whole new generation to learn about the wonderful world of trees.

Young Tree Champions, made possible thanks to funding from M&G Plc, empowers young people to work together with nature to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises. The programme gives them the knowledge, confidence and courage to stand up for the natural world. By the end of the last academic year, 149 schools had created an account on the programme’s Club Space sharing over 400 activities, lessons and achievements, with 93 schools successfully delivering a Young Tree Champion Project, planting trees in their grounds and benefiting from teacher training webinars and public speaking workshops.

School applications for 2022 close on 3 February – do please encourage your local school to apply if they haven’t already done so!

A Force for Nature at COP26 and beyond

Festival poster  showing the globe with children and the text 'Force for Nature Climate Festival Scotland and Northern Ireland'

Thanks to the kind support of Kusuma Trust UK, we also launched the Young Tree Champion Ambassador Programme.12 talented ambassadors set eagerly to work inspiring their peers to connect with trees through art, music, poetry, science and horticulture.

Our Young Ambassadors are fearless in their mission to speak up for trees and nature. They have shared their powerful message of being a Force for Nature, with schools, the public and important decision makers such as Lord Zac Goldsmith and the Prime Minister. Ahead of COP26 they delivered a compelling call for action to world leaders, demanding that their voices be heard.

A tree-mendous National Tree Week

The Wombles at National Tree Week with students and teachers at Green Lane Primary & Nursery School

During last year’s National Tree Week, we called on everyone to #PlantForOurFuture. The week was packed chock-full of fun events and practical guidance – children fiction favourites, The Wombles, even joined us at Green Lane Primary & Nursery School to plant five new orchard trees! We were also delighted to work alongside 50 tenacious volunteers from our fantastic corporate partner organisations to plant two new green corridors and an incredible 183 metres of hedgerow in Oxfordshire.

Essential new research

Trees at the side of the street in an English suburb

2021 was an important year for tree-related research at The Tree Council. We were thrilled to be part of a £2.5 million partnership budget from the Treasury’s Shared Outcomes Fund to deliver crucial research into new techniques for growing ‘Trees Outside Woodlands’. Five innovative trials led by five Local Authorities in England will investigate the most challenging problems faced when establishing trees in urban areas, orchards and hedgerows.

This research will be vital for ensuring that the UK can meet its tree planting commitments and turn the tide on deforestation. As soon as the trials start yielding results, we’ll be sure to share the learnings.

 Network Rail Tree Planting Programme

A Network Rail train exiting a tunnel in a wooded area.

The Network Rail and Tree Council Community Tree Planting Programme magnificently rose to the challenge of planting during a tricky year. To date, more than 90,000 new trees and 10 kilometres of hedgerow have been established in communities thanks to Network Rail’s £1 million pledge and the hard work of countless community members.

Achievements of note include 10,000 or so trees planted in Cumbria to restore heritage hedgerows; more than 20,000 trees planted in Gloucestershire to protect against flooding; and over 600 trees established in North Somerset in another excellent example of tree-based flooding mitigation.

Strong moves from our Tree Wardens

A group of Tree Wardens outside

2021 saw our Tree Warden network extend its reach, with new groups joining us from Chesterfield and Lancaster, Torbay and the Brecon Beacons. Northumberland, meanwhile, launched a new pilot scheme – we are very excited to see the results!

We also held our very first National Tree Warden Forum in Wales which included training on championing local trees, the history of the scheme, ancient tree recording and the cultural significance of trees.

In Suffolk, Tree Wardens appeared on Countryfile’s Plant Britain episode to talk about the joys of seed gathering, while in Nutfield, Tree Wardens planted 1,000 trees to create a beautiful new community woodland.

New Tree Warden training materials were also launched thanks to support of the wonderful players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Story in Nature writing competition

In partnership with The Week Junior Science+Nature, we launched our Story in Nature writing competition, asking children across the country to tell us what nature means to them. We received an awe-inspiring 87 entries, whose quality and creativity blew our judges completely away.

Our two winners, Ella and Finn, each received a £50 book voucher and a year’s subscription to The Week Junior Science+Nature. Tallulah, Henry, Zoe and Luna were specially commended, taking home a £25 book voucher each. All shortlisted entries were published online in a handsome e-book. Watch this space for details on this year’s event.

We couldn’t be prouder of everything that our incredible funders, partners and supporters helped us to achieve in 2021. Now we’re excited to be looking ahead to 2022 and hope that you are too!

In need of a nature-based New Year’s Resolution for 2022? Take a look below to see how you can act for trees.



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