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National Parks remain out of reach for many, but local access to woodland is increasing

07 March 2019

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Northwood Hillsd, an example of community woodland
A recent report by CPRE has highlighted the limited access to National Parks by some of the country's poorest communities.  Research says that protected countryside is more than 15 miles away from more than half of the most deprived areas.i
Whilst the report, commissioned by the by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is very concerning, (particularly in relation to the inaccessibility of public transport links) there is better news about local access to woodland for many of those same urban communities.  

Since the creation of The Mersey Forest in 1991 there has been a massive increase in accessible woodland close to where people live.  

Paul Nolan, Director of the Mersey Forest said, "The Mersey Forest Partnership has dramatically increased the availability of accessible woodland in hundreds of urban sites across Merseyside and north Cheshire  over the past 25 years.  

Based on the Woodland Trust's Woodland Access standard there is clearly a large  increase woodlands close to the places people live. We know from surveys that 65% of people close to these new woodlands are using them for recreation at least once a month."

So how have they done it?  What does accessible woodland mean and how do community forests work?

Paul Nolan says, "The Forest Partnership has worked closely with local people to create new areas of accessible woodland close to where they live, reclaiming derelict land or making use of underused land.  The CPRE report demonstrates that a person living in Huyton near Liverpool may now be finding it harder to visit the breathtaking scenery of a National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but they are now able to walk in woodland close to where they live every day."

There is an urgent need to plant more trees.  The IPCC report on Climate Change in October 2018 highlighted the need to plant billions more and make some hard choices globally about how land is used.ii  Currently, despite some of the huge efforts mentioned above, it is likely that England is now deforesting, after decades of growth in woodland cover.iii However, more than 9 million trees have been planted in The Mersey Forest in the past 25 years, creating thousands of hectares on new woodland. The area of woodland has increased by close to 75%, bucking the national trend.   

May there be cause for hope with plans for the Northern Forest?  

The Northern Forest is a 25-year vision to plant 50 million trees across the North of England, stretching from Liverpool to Hull with the M62 as its spine. The Northern Forest sits exactly in the gap between National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the north of England – the areas looked at in the CPRE report.

Their success in developing and delivering Community Forest  Plans has made the Community Forest network key to its planning and development. Working with the Woodland Trust, five Community Forests, (The Mersey Forest, City of Trees, HEYwoods, The White Rose Forest and the South Yorkshire Forest), will play a key role in planning and delivering this ambitious plan to reforest the area. 

The target of 50 million trees equates to trebling the current rate of planting and will create a productive forest across the Northern Powerhouse area that will not only provide biomass and future timber, but will also help to deliver wider social and environmental benefits to improve the population's health, reduce flood risk, tackle poor air quality, improve water quality, provide opportunities for recreation, tourism and leisure, and create attractive places in which to live, work and invest. iv

Paul Nolan said, "At the heart of the delivery of the Northern Forest has to be the Community Forest principle of working with local communities and creating high-value places that people will cherish; places that can become attractors for people to live and work, that support rich biodiversity, and that provide the natural capital to enable sustainable growth to start to be a possibility.
While technology, economies and social norms will all change over the next 25 years, we have an innate need for a good-quality natural environment, whether that is our important designated areas or the community woodlands on our doorstep."


i Robert Booth, The Guardian 04 Feb 2019
ii  IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, H. O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P. R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J. B. R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M. I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, T. Water eld (eds.)]. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 32 pp.
iii C Marshall: 'Tree planting at 'an all time low''. BBC News, 16 Jun. 2016. environment-36555858
iv Paul Nolan: 'Why a new Northern Forest is worth the investment'. Town and Country Planning, October 2017


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2019 in The Mersey Forest

09 January 2019

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View over Colliers Moss
2019 is a big year for the environment – and a special one for The Mersey Forest.
The government has named 2019 as the Year of Green Action – and as part of that, Nature Connected, the Liverpool Nature Partnership, is planning a Year of Action for the Environment.

2019 will be a year of green action across Liverpool City Region where people from all backgrounds will have the opportunity to be involved in projects that improve the natural world. The aim is to leave a better environment for the next generation to inherit and make our area one of the best places in the country to live, work and flourish.

What's more, 2019 marks the 25th birthday for the first trees planted as part of The Mersey Forest. Our plan and organisation is 25 years old, and we'll be doing lots to mark the occasion later in the year.

Get involved

A Liverpool City Region Year of Environment 2019 website has been created to act as a hub for activities/events and communication throughout the year.

Our celebrations kick off with a big community tree planting event at the Countess of Chester Country Park on Saturday 2 March 11-2pm.

2019 is a great year to discover The Mersey Forest!

Discover the Forest

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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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Mersey Forest twins with African initiative in drive to plant more trees locally and globally

29 November 2018

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Planting seedlings - The Kilimanjaro Project
The Mersey Forest has joined forces with the Kilimanjaro Project in an effort to drive forward increased tree planting both at home and across Tanzania.

Trees and woodlands play a crucial role in supporting wildlife, improving our health and wellbeing and tackling climate change. Large scale reforestation all around the world is essential if we are to meet the target of limiting global warming to under 1.5 degrees celsius.

Both initiatives have similar aims. The Mersey Forest has an ambitious plan to increase woodland cover in the area to 12%, planting more than 10 million new trees over the next 25 years. These will add to the 9 million planted to date, many of which are now developing into community woodlands that are visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year. As part of the new tree planting season, work is now underway to plant thousands more new trees across Merseyside and North Cheshire.

The Kilimanjaro Project is an environmental and social impact initiative with the vision to plant more than 50 million trees on the slopes of Kilimanjaro and across Tanzania, inspired by the founding president of Tanzania.

The Mersey Forest Partnership will be supporting colleagues working on The Kilimanjaro Project to promote more tree planting, twinning of projects and working jointly to secure new resources enable more tree planting in both Forests.

Mersey Forest Steering Group member Cllr Matt Bryan said:

"The Mersey Forest has been a successful Partnership, planting millions of new trees that provide lots of benefits for people, wildlife and the economy. We still have a huge job to do to deliver our ambitious local plans for Mersey Forest, but we also recognise that we are part of a global movement to protect and enhance woodlands and to mitigate climate change. Working with the Kilimanjaro project is a great way to highlight the role that we all need to play, working locally and globally."

Sarah Scott, founder of The Kilimanjaro Project said,

"We love creating dynamic active partnerships and our vision is to start sister forests with other organisations across the world.  We're honoured to partner with Mersey forest as our inaugural sister forest and will hopefully start to set a trend, creating a rumble from the foothills of Kilimanjaro to be heard around the world.  'Tuje Pamoja' – Swahili for 'let us come together' - the only way we can protect our planet for future generations is if we do it together."


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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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