Looking Out From The Bottom Of A Steep Slope At Huckham In The Polden Hills Across Butleigh Moor And The Somerset Levels.

Free trees to help Somerset reduce flood risks

14,000 trees are being offered to Somerset landowners and parish councils this winter, as part of a new project called Trees for Water.

The initiative is being led by Somerset environmental group Reimagining the Levels, in partnership with Somerset Rivers Authority, the Farming & Wildlife Advisory Group SouthWest and the Woodland Trust.

The aim is to ‘slow the flow’ and reduce local flood risks. As trees intercept heavy rainfall, and help more water to infiltrate soil, so less water runs down fast to vulnerable areas.

The Reimagining the Levels team are offering expert advice on planting for different landscapes. They are supplying trees, supports and protections and making a small payment for every tree planted.

Three grant applications have been approved so far by the Trees for Water action fund.

One is for planting 150 trees and shrubs along the contours of a rough slope at Huckham in the Polden Hills above Butleigh Moor (pictured at the top of this page). This will help to reduce the amount of water going into a complex system of ditches and rhynes and eventually into the River Cary.

Text continues below image of land near Curry Rivel.

Ex-arable land near the highest point in Curry Rivel parish near some ancient woodland.

The other two schemes approved so far are for 300 trees and shrubs at Martock Recreation Ground, and for 400 trees and shrubs on land owned by the Curry Woods Conservation Trust (pictured above) near Curry Rivel.

At least nine more bids are currently expected. There are plenty of opportunities for more.

If you are interested in taking part, call Kate Towers on 07872 664543 or email: katetowers.rtl@gmail.com

Who can apply

Landowners and parish councils with small patches of land that would not usually attract funding can apply.

In particular, Trees for Water is designed to suit sites not large enough for Countryside Stewardship grants and not special enough to concern Natural England.

This project is intended to be flexible, bespoke and not bureaucratic. Innovative, environmentally-sensitive agroforestry approaches are welcome.

Applicants are asked to think about bits of land where trees could intercept surface water run-off and help to slow the flow in Somerset’s rivers.

36 different species of tree are currently available, thanks to a donation of 12,000 trees by the Woodland Trust. Another 2,000 trees are expected from a nursery in December.

Volunteer to help with planting

The Reimagining the Levels team are keen to recruit volunteers to help out. This is what they have to say:

“You can expect to get dirty but have a wonderful day. You will be outside in ‘the weather’ with interesting people and nature. You should wear weather appropriate clothing and if possible, bring your own spade.

“If this sounds like something you would like to be involved with, then please email your name and contact details (including phone number) to: katetowers.rtl@gmail.com with “Volunteer” in the subject line. Updates on planting schemes and more information can be found on our website: www.reimaginingthelevels.org.uk

“In these Covid times we will have to respect strict physical distancing rules and contact and trace requirements. We will have only small numbers of volunteer planters with sanitizing stations.

“At the beginning of the day we will offer a simple lesson in good planting methods, (a well planted tree will enhance survival whilst a poorly planted tree’s chances are diminished) and explain our programme of tree maintenance.

“A basic lunch of soup and fruit will be on offer plus regular tea breaks.”

A big achievement

A big achievement so far is the creation of a temporary home for all of these thousands of trees, before they go to various places across Somerset.

Two enthusiastic supporters of Reimagining the Levels have provided land for a nursery. This has been ploughed, harrowed, dug, staked, tarpaulined, and rabbit-proofed. The photo below shows some of this satisfying work in progress.

Seven people working on a series of trenches with some saplings temporarily heeled in for Trees for Water.

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