Local resident Delia Ray, a volunteer for countryside charity CPRE London, explains how the people of Wanstead and Woodford can help with a bold plan to mitigate the impact of climate change on the capital
Imagine a ring of trees providing shade and tranquillity in a seamless circle around London. Linking with existing areas such as Epping Forest, the woodland would absorb pollution, cool the environment and provide safe passage for local wildlife.
It sounds like a dream, but countryside charity CPRE London is working with expert partners (such as The Woodland Trust) to make this ‘M25 of trees’ a reality. By planting saplings or reforesting neglected sites, gaps will be filled and access enhanced across the green belt.
We now need help from people in outer London areas such as Wanstead and Woodford with the first step: mapping areas which offer potential for planting. These places could include overlooked plots of land near existing woods, empty borders of a park, or fly-tipped scrubland. They could be council land, privately owned or part of the estate of schools or churches.
One site already highlighted to the team in Redbridge is the stretch of the River Roding near Chigwell Road (as pictured here). Borderland such as this could host new trees linked to neighbouring woodland, reducing run-off and flood risk. Other possible locations are the patch of overgrown land behind Eagle Pond, within the grounds of Snaresbrook Crown Court, and the land between Wanstead Park and Valentines Park, especially the overgrown spaces adjacent to the Roding. Can you identify any more locations? At this point, we’re simply mapping possible sites, and we will find out who owns them in follow-up stages.
The next step will be planting. Like a natural forest, the new tree ring community forest will contain native trees, but also hedgerows, open plains, and even cultivated areas such as orchards, areas of nut trees and wooded margins for nature-friendly farming.
The forest will build on existing woodland in the green belt. The project directly addresses key requirements of the London Urban Forest Plan to create more woodland, especially species-rich woodland, in London. It encourages biodiversity, supporting vulnerable species such as the hedgehog and Pipistrelle bat. It will also help residents to enjoy access to nature – essential for the 1.8m Londoners with no garden, including an estimated 100,000 in Redbridge.
Currently, swathes of London’s green belt are under threat. The tree ring will therefore also help the green belt do its job. Without it, London could have spread out like Los Angeles, potentially sprawling across an area from Cambridge to Brighton.
Can you help bring this vision to life? If you know of possible locations for new woodland creation, please get in touch. There are also lots of opportunities to donate or get involved in other ways.
For more information and to submit your ideas, visit wnstd.com/treering