Over 3,000 hectares of new woodland is set to be planted along England’s rivers and watercourses including in North West Norfolk with backing from the country’s leading environmental organisations.
Planting trees on and around riverbanks, or allowing them to grow naturally, can help to improve water quality by blocking the runoff of pollutants into rivers, manage flood risks by slowing the flow of water, boost biodiversity by creating new habitat corridors and make our rivers more climate resilient by providing shade and cooling water temperatures.
There are 242,262km of watercourses in England, and it is hoped that by planting trees in this way they will contribute to a natural network of habitats across the country as part of our plans to expand, improve and connect these places across our towns, cities and countryside.
The Woodlands For Water project aims to create 3,150 hectares of trees in six river catchment areas from Devon to Cumbria by March 2025. This includes the Bure, Glaven, Stiffkey, Wensum, Heacham, Lark, Gaywood and Wissey catchment in Norfolk.
To support farmers and landowners to create these woodlands, they will be able to apply for funding through the England Woodland Creation Offer grant which provides greater financial incentives for landowners and farmers to plant and manage trees, including along rivers and watercourses.
Lord Goldsmith, Forestry Minister said -
This is a hugely exciting and untapped area for woodland creation. The benefits of planting trees by rivers are vast - from helping biodiversity recover by creating more natural riverbanks; to slowing the flow of surface water to reduce the risk of flooding; and improving water quality by buffering rivers from harmful agricultural pollution.
The Government is committed to trebling tree-planting rates by the end of this parliament, and in this vitally important year for tackling climate change with the Glasgow COP summit, this partnership marks an important next step in our plans to build back greener.
Supported by Defra, the project will be carried out by the ‘Riverscapes’ Partnership comprising of experts from the Rivers Trust, National Trust, Woodland Trust and Beaver Trust, which will be on hand to provide expert assistance in the selected river catchment areas across England, ensuring there is pipeline of projects for riparian planting in future years.
Today’s announcement is a key action of the recently published England Trees Action Plan which outlined the Government’s strategy to get more trees in the ground that will help to deliver wide ranging benefits for nature, climate and people, and contributes towards the commitment to treble planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament.
Outside of the catchments targeted by this new Riverscapes Partnership, Defra’s other Woodland Creation Partnerships are supporting land owners to plant trees to meet a range of objectives, including along watercourses.