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Trees bring a new lease of life to the South Downs

As the warmth of spring sunshine bathes the South Downs, thousands of new life-giving trees are sprouting up from the soil.

It’s been a busy few months because well over 11,000 trees have been planted across the region – on top of 10,000 trees planted during the previous winter.

Now the inspiring initiative, called “Trees for The Downs”, is putting out the call for new applications for even more tree planting in 2022.

Applications are welcome from landowners, farmers, parish and town councils, schools and community groups in the National Park.

The call-out comes after a tremendous public response to the Trees for the Downs campaign, which launched three years ago.

So far, almost £200,000 has been raised by the South Downs National Park Trust, the official independent charity for the National Park, which has set its sights on raising £260,000 to be able to plant 100,000 trees in total.

The tree planting is restoring those lost to pests and diseases, including Ash Dieback and Dutch Elm Disease, as well as creating new habitat for wildlife and amenity value for local communities. The trees will be a mixture of disease-resistant elm trees and native species, such as oak and black poplar. Sites include schools, farms, recreation grounds and historic parks.

The Trust is working with the National Park Authority’s woodlands team to deliver the project.

Sonia Lorenzo Martín, Woodlands Lead for the National Park Authority, said: “We’ve worked really hard with partners this winter to plant all these new trees and are excited to plant even more later this year.

“Trees are amazing and such an important part of the South Downs landscape, which has more woodland by area than any other National Park in England and Wales. They give us clean air to breathe and are the life support for so many animals and other plants.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to be part of nature recovery, restoring habitat that has been lost, as well as creating new habitat for nature to flourish. We’re looking forward to seeing the new applications that come forward.”

And Sonia added: “Trees for the Downs is also an important strand of the National Park’s long-term ‘ReNature’ initiative, fighting biodiversity loss and also helping to tackle climate change and creating a more resilient ecosystem in the future.”

Thirty sites across Hampshire, West Sussex and East Sussex have been receiving trees for planting over the past few months. Here are some of the highlights:

- A hundred trees were planted at Longmoor Range and Training Area, near Liss, as part of a joint initiative with Soroptimist International, a global women’s organisation celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2021. Tree planting mirrors the project of 1921 when the organisation began in Oakland, California, and women were successful in protecting redwood trees at that time.

- Trees were provided from the National Park Trust for the new Tercentenary Wood at Penns Place, Petersfield. All pupils and staff at Churcher's College planted a tree to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and to commemorate the school's 300-year anniversary by leaving a lasting legacy for the future.

- Five elms, seven oak trees and two field maple trees were provided by the Trust and dedicated to the Queen’s Green Canopy in the grounds of Glyndebourne Opera House. The Lord-Lieutenant of East Sussex, Andrew Blackman, planted one of the disease-resistant elms.

- More than 1,500 trees were planted by volunteers at Wild Heart Hill, near Worthing.

- Elms have been provided for the community at East Dean, near Chichester, to create a new avenue of elms, replacing one that was lost many years ago.

Andy Player, Rural Estate Delivery Advisor for Landmarc Support Services, who helps to manage woodland at Longmoor for the Ministry of Defence, said: “The trees are not only increasing the size of the woodlands, but also the species diversity, providing habitat for the endangered white letter hairstreak butterfly. These trees are also mitigating the effects of climate change and enhancing the amenity value of the treescape of the camp and training area for the benefit of visiting troops and the public.

“We appreciate the support of the South Downs National Park Trust, and are also pleased to have received additional support from Soroptimist International during their milestone year.”

Julie Blackwell, President of Soroptimist International Southern England region, said: “We’re delighted to be working with the South Downs National Park on their Trees for the Downs project. By planting 100 trees for our centenary, it is a fitting tribute to the first project of our organisation in California, Saving the Redwoods. It’s also a topical project for climate change and the environment which is high on our agenda.”

To find out more about making an application for Trees for the Downs, visit www.southdownstrust.org.uk/trees-for-the-downs/

The deadline for applications is 15 May and the trees will be planted between December 2022 and February next year.

The tree planting has been made possible thanks to generous donations from the public, as well as support from Aspinal of London, Cinven, Jude’s – a carbon negative B Corp, Nyetimber and South East Water.

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