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Thousands more trees to be planted with schools across England

29 November 2018

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Rivington Primary School Tree Week_small
The Trees For Learning Programme is about to enter its third planting season with Community Forests all over England set to plant thousands more trees with primary school children. 
Funded by Defra, and delivered in partnership with the Woodland Trust, the scheme is part of a programme to support schools to plant 1 million trees by 2020.  
The need to plant more trees on a global scale was made apparent earlier this year following the publication of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which urged countries to plant trees in their billions.
Over the summer and autumn, Trees for Learning Project Officers all over the country have been supporting schools to carry out maintenance on areas planted in previous seasons, as well as follow up classroom based work and curriculum-focused activities with pupils.  Now the season has changed once more and the business of planting has begun in earnest.
During Tree Week staff from City of Trees in Manchester will be donning their thermals and running planting sessions with schools in Salford and Bury. The Mersey Forest team will be planting in Victoria Park, St Helen's and Prince's Park Liverpool.  Officers from the Forest of Marston Vale in Bedfordshire ran Tree Walks to coincide with England's first ever Tree Charter Day last Saturday and will be planting trees with children with special needs as well as getting ready for their Christmas tree festival. And that's just the first week of the season! 

Tree planting will gather momentum throughout the winter months as more and more schools throughout England work together to reach the project's target to plant 164 000 trees by 2020.  
To find out what all of the Community Forests have been up to on their Trees for Learning schemes follow @Trees4Learning.

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Tree planting season kicks off with weekend of action

26 November 2018

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Tree week
Tree planting season is here – and we celebrated with a weekend of action with tree planting events in communities in Liverpool and Ellesmere Port.

There's a new sense of urgency to this year's season since the recent IPCC report on climate change warned that we need a huge expansion of tree planting to help meet the target of preventing warming increasing above 1.5 degrees.

On Saturday we kicked off National Tree Week by helping the community plant the new 'Tiber Forest' at the Greenhaus Project, Tiber site, Lodge Lane in Liverpool:
And we celebrated Tree Charter Day in Westminster Park, Ellesmere Port:

On Sunday we joined Chester West and Chester Council and Garden Quarter Community to plant bulbs and trees around Wenlock Lane Play Area in Ellesmere Port.

Earlier in the week we helped two Ellesmere Port schools – St Saviour's RC Primary & Our Lady Star of the Sea – plant over 300 trees. Here's a fantastic video of some of the pupils in action!

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Major rivers conference to feature our natural flood management work in St Helens

08 November 2018

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Fir Tree Farm
A major conference with the theme of 'River Restoration in Practice' takes place in Liverpool next spring – with delegates from around the country set to see the work we've delivered with partners in Blackbrook, St Helens.

The conference is organised by the River Restoration Centre (RRC), the country's 'expert information and advice' centre for all aspects of best-practice river restoration and catchment management. The Annual Network Conference brings together professionals from all areas of river restoration including contractors, engineers, consultants, academics, and representatives from trusts, local organisations, and government agencies.

Blackbrook in St Helens has flooded three times since 2000 – with the last event on Boxing Day 2015 (Storm Eva). Blackbrook has a 5% chance of flooding in any given year, with 18 properties at flood risk including three businesses and a major trunk A-road.

Four engineered log dams have been installed to help reduce flood risk. These are natural dams made from tree trunks, back-pinned and encased in spilled living willow. They are designed to allow water to pass in low flow, but in flooding conditions temporary hold back and store flood water that would otherwise travel downstream.

Together, all the dams installed back-up the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pools volume, around 2,500m3 or 2,500,000 litres! This is just the beginning though – further funding is being sought to implement a catchment-scale Natural Flood Management Plan which will include deculverting part of the Black Brook and creating a flood relief wetland.

A visit to the Blackbrook site will form part of the programme of the conference.

Full conference details


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Nature boosts health and wellbeing for nearly 2000 people in Merseyside and North Cheshire

10 October 2018

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walking in woods pic
Over the last three years nearly 2000 people took part in 'Nature4Health' – a programme of healthy activities in local green spaces – and now evaluation shows that on average they saw a big boost to their wellbeing and an increase in their everyday physical activity.

The scheme, managed by The Mersey Forest and funded by The Big Lottery Fund's Reaching Communities Programme, began in 2015. Adults and children from all across Merseyside and North Cheshire signed up for twelve weeks of activities in the great outdoors, including healthy walking, conservation activities and mindfulness in nature.

The results of the evaluation show that people who took part increased their levels of walking and moderate physical activity by over a third by the end of the twelve weeks. Participants also saw a significant improvement in their mental wellbeing, recorded by before and after surveys. The results are particularly significant because of the large number of participants.

The findings are in line with growing evidence that the natural environment is important to our health and wellbeing. The government calls for more 'green prescribing' in its recently published 25 Year Plan for the Environment. The plan encourages the NHS to work more closely with environmental organisations to offer therapies such as gardening and outdoor exercise in natural settings to people with mild to moderate mental health conditions and who may be struggling to overcome loneliness and isolation.

Paul Nolan OBE, Director of the Mersey Forest commented:

"We've known for years that the local environment can be a powerful tool in improving wellbeing – and now with Nature4Health we've shown how that tool can be put into action, in real communities, at a large scale. We're looking forward to working with the NHS and local authorities to build on this success and help more people improve their everyday lives."

Quotes from people who took part in Nature4Health activities include:

"I've come off antibiotics after being on them for 20+ years due to a long term lung condition – the walking helps my breathing." (Jan)

"I feel a lot healthier – I notice my knees feel a lot better. My breathing has improved- I am not panting or wheezing like I did when I first started." (Ken)

"You meet new people and it is great for mental health and social activity. The comradeship of the group is important to me and we have a good group." (Alison)

"Since I have been on the course I feel much more relaxed and I am starting to appreciate life again. I still have a long journey ahead, but I am beginning to cope a lot more" (Andrea)

Read the report

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Cheshire's innovative Natural Health Service in running for major national award

11 September 2018

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Children at Forest School
An innovative partnership between Cheshire West and Chester Council, the Mersey Forest and other community partners has been nominated for a national award. 

Cheshire's Natural Health Service uses the best of the county's green spaces to get people out and about to help improve participants' physical health and mental wellbeing. 

It's been nominated for an award from the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) under the heading of Best Health & Wellbeing Initiative.  

In Cheshire West and Chester, as in England as a whole, high levels of wellbeing are not equally distributed across the population. Data shows that life expectancy at birth for men is nearly ten years lower in areas of the industrial Ellesmere Port than their counterparts in and around Chester - and, across the UK, deprivation is associated with obesity; a key cause of cancer and heart disease. In Cheshire West and Chester, 64.6% of adults, just under a quarter of 4-5 year olds, and a third of 10-11 year-olds, are overweight or obese.

The initiative builds on the growing body of evidence that activities in the natural environment can have a significant impact on keeping people healthy.

The programme itself consists of up to  twelve weeks of evidence-based outdoor activity known to tackle some of our most pressing health needs - and results to date have shown significant increases both in participants' physical and mental wellbeing.

Activities available through Cheshire's Natural Health Service include:

Nature Based Health Walks

Low impact exercise in local green space. Easy to access, they help to break down the barriers to a more active lifestyle, especially amongst those struggling to be active because of a health condition. They're designed to be suitable for people with cancer, heart disease, poor mental health and obesity - and help to create peer support networks, reducing social isolation and encouraging ongoing activity after the activity has finished.

Practical Conservation

These sessions improve strength and stamina through nature based conservation projects, boosting practical skills and confidence whilst benefiting local green spaces. 

Horticulture Therapy

Improving mental and physical wellbeing through food growing and gardening. The sites are safe and secure places to develop participants' ability to mix socially, make friends and learn practical skills that help them to be more independent. Using gardening tasks and the garden itself, the horticultural therapists build a set of activities for each gardener to improve their particular health needs, and to work on certain goals they want to achieve.

Forest School/Bush Craft for Adults

These involve hands-on learning and play experiences within a woodland setting and have been demonstrated to promote positive behavioural change in children. The project extends the principles of Forest School to adults too, combining physical activity and outdoor learning to inspire individuals of any age

Mindful contact with nature

This activity aims to improve mental health especially by increasing resilience against day-to-day triggers of stress and anxiety. Focused on individuals with mild/moderate anxiety and depression, the sessions bring together mindfulness techniques and the sense of a connection to nature. Participants are taught a range of self-practice techniques, empowering them to take positive action for their mental wellbeing within their local green space.

Cheshire's Natural Health Service is running for another two years and has a rolling programme of events meaning anyone can join in the free activities at any point.  To find out what's running near you visit

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