A major new initiative launches today to plant 5,000 trees across the South Downs National Park.
Coinciding with National Tree Week, “Trees for the Downs” will aim to restore trees that have been lost due to pests and diseases, including Ash Dieback and Dutch Elm Disease.
The South Downs National Park Trust, the official charity for the National Park, is now aiming to raise £61,500 to plant the trees.
The campaign will aim to restore iconic trees that have been lost at community spaces and along roads or popular walking routes.
Trees for the Downs is being supported by Hillier, whose garden centres near to the South Downs will be helping with the fundraising drive. Leading horticultural experts from Hillier, who have pioneered disease-resistant trees, will also be growing and nurturing the trees for the Trust to deliver to the community once the fundraising target is reached.
It comes as diseases such as Ash Dieback and Dutch Elm Disease are significantly changing our national treescape. Experts believe Ash Dieback could result in the loss of over 90 per cent 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.
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.
Andy Player, who leads on woodland for the South Downs National Park, said: “Trees are a glorious natural asset – they give us air to breathe, support countless species of wildlife, and enrich the beauty of our local environment. As a carbon capturer, they will also be a key tool in tackling climate change.
“But our wonderful trees are under unprecedented threat from an ever-increasing number of pests and diseases. Increasing the number and diversity of our native trees, and carefully introducing new species into the landscape, will be a big help in responding to these threats.
“’Trees For The Downs’ will be a historic replanting initiative and it’s exciting to be able to launch this as the South Downs National Park prepares to mark its 10th birthday.
“Our focus will be on planting trees in places where people can connect with them and form part of people’s everyday life, such as on the walk to school. The point is that trees within our communities are just as important as trees in woodlands.
“We hope the community and local businesses rally round to support the fundraising drive and restore our lost trees. This initiative aims to create a lasting legacy, benefiting communities as they watch these new trees grow and flourish in the years ahead.”
Adam Dunnett, a Director at Hillier Trees, said: “I can remember as a child seeing elms dying in my father’s garden and in the surrounding woodland. Looking at the skeletons of formally glorious trees was one of the triggers which has made me follow a career in horticulture. To now be able to support the restoration of elms in the beautiful South Downs is a great moment, allowing new generations of nature lovers to experience the beauty of elms growing in the countryside.”
And Andy added: “Disease-resistant elm will be key in the replanting as, ecologically speaking, it’s the closest match to ash and supports many of the same insect and butterfly species. However, we’ll be looking at a range of native species for the replanting. The focus will be the ‘right tree in the right place’.”
For more details on the campaign and find out how to get involved visit www.southdownstrust.org.uk/trees-for-the-downs/