A campaign to plant more than 8,000 trees this winter at farms across the South Downs is now under way.
TV and radio presenter Nicki Chapman, who is best known for presenting Escape to the Country, planted the first tree – a field maple – during recent filming for the programme at Hamilton Farm, in Beauworth, Hampshire.
The “Trees for the Downs” project was launched by the South Downs National Park Trust to restore trees that have been lost over the past few decades, including those to ash dieback and Dutch elm disease.
Experts believe ash dieback could result in the loss of more than 90% of Britain’s ash trees in the next decade, while Dutch elm disease has already seen the loss of 60m British elms in two epidemics and continues to spread today.
Farms taking part in the initiative across Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex include Colworth Farm in West Dean, which will plant 160 trees, and Hoddern Farm, in Peacehaven, where 200 trees will be planted.
The campaign was only set to run for one year, but South East Water will give £15,000 every year until 2025 for new tree planting. This pledge, on top of £65,000 raised so far from generous donations from the public and donors, means it will continue for the next five years.
Significant tree planting will now take place over subsequent winters at sites across the region, bringing new habitat for wildlife, helping to restore soils and giving amenity value to local communities.
Trees for the Downs will complement existing schemes run by the Forestry Commission and the Woodland Trust, focusing on planting trees at community spaces and along popular routes, rather than larger-scale replanting in woodlands.
“Trees are part of the rich tapestry of features that make the South Downs landscape so special to people,” said Nick Heasman, countryside and policy manager who heads the National Park’s woodlands team.
“They’re also cornerstones of any ecosystem and that means by planting more trees in the right place, we’re helping nature recovery, improving the quality of the soil and helping to mitigate climate change.
“We’re looking forward to getting these trees in the ground over the winter and watching them develop in the coming years. It’s exciting to know we will be planting many more in the years ahead.”
To donate to the campaign, visit the South Downs Trust website.