Sidmouth Arboretum and Sidmouth Town Council are embarking on a major tree planting project.  The Environment Working Group of the Council has challenged Sidmouth Arboretum to plant 14,000 trees around the valley in the next five years, the number approximating to the valley’s human population.

The original idea for the project was suggested three years ago by Arboretum supporter Richard Eley, but it was thwarted by Covid.  It was revived by the Council’s Environment Working Group because of the public benefit trees and hedgerows are known to bring to the quality of the local environment.

Trees and hedges provide visual delight, something that is important to our tourism industry, and there is clear evidence that they have a positive impact on physical and human health.  Trees and hedges cool hot urban spaces, and they help clean the air by absorbing some forms of atmospheric pollution.  They provide a home and food supply for a wide range of nature from nesting birds to butterfly caterpillars, even down to the woodlice and fungi that break down the fallen leaves and wood.  They help to avert flooding by mitigating heavy rain run-off from our steep valley slopes.  Also, more trees and hedges will make a contribution to the Council’s target to become carbon neutral.

Chris Lockyear, Chair of Sidmouth Town Council said ‘I am delighted that the project to plant 14,000 trees, one for every one of us, is now going ahead. This is a really inspiring project that provides a great legacy for our children and grandchildren to enjoy, and will provide significant environmental benefit to all of us.’

Most of the trees will be young whips, the term for year old saplings.  There will be some small pockets of new woodland, but most will be planted as broad hedgerows to form wildlife corridors in strategic sites.  There will also be a number of larger trees to provide instant impact.

Most of the trees will be provided by organisations such as the Woodland Trust, Tree Council and Devon Wildlife Trust, either as free tree packs or grants.

The Arboretum will need to find suitable sites for planting and they have made an excellent start with the National Trust and Donkey Sanctuary offering sites totalling about a Hectare for the current planting season.  Two local farmers have agreed in principle to host plantations in the 2023-4 planting season, and the Arboretum will be approaching other landowners for future years.

The first planting will be on the National Trust’s Combe Wood Farm in Salcombe Regis on Friday 9th December and the Arboretum is hoping local people will join them to help.  Planting whips is relatively easy on a good site.  You push a spade into the ground twice to make a cross, ease the spade sideways to create a gap, put the whip into the gap and heel it in to close the soil.  Five hundred whips should take about 40 worker hours to plant and so 20 volunteers could do it in two hours.

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