Back in November of 2020, we joined forces with tree planting experts Creating Tomorrow’s Forests in order to tackle the carbon footprint of our own supply chain. Since then, for every project we’ve completed, we’ve planted enough trees to offset the emissions associated with the production and transport of the installed energy system. It’s coming up to the end of tree planting season, so we had a catch-up with Creating Tomorrow’s Forests’ in-house ecologist, Simone Webber, to find out how our trees are getting on…
Hi Simone, thanks for chatting with us. We’re really excited to hear about how our trees are getting on!
No problem. The season has been going well and we’re really starting to see some progress.
That’s great news. To start us off, could you tell us a little bit about where the trees are being planted?
Absolutely. The site is called Charlotte’s Wood and it’s located on the Somerset Levels, near Glastonbury. There are a couple of reasons why we chose it. First of all, at Creating Tomorrow’s Forests, we place a strong focus on forest restoration – turning former woodland areas back into woodlands. Charlotte’s Wood used to be a willow plantation so it offered a fantastic opportunity for restoration. The site is also well suited to becoming a ‘wet woodland’, where the ground is quite waterlogged, as it’s surrounded by ditches of water. This is a rare habitat in the UK but one that’s really important for amphibians and aquatic invertebrates.
“Charlotte’s Wood is really just a great example of what Creating Tomorrow’s Forests is all about – restoring woodland and creating fantastic ecosystems.”
So how do you go about restoring an area like Charlotte’s Wood?
First of all, we plow the field to break up the soil. We then put down a layer of mulch, which is made from hay and provides nutrients and protection for the saplings. It also helps retain water, although Charlotte’s Wood is already very boggy so it doesn’t need much help on that front! We then plant the trees in the mulch and add any other features we want to include.
What trees have been planted?
We’ve planted just over 23,000 trees there now and we’re pretty much done for the season. We’ve chosen specialist wetland species like Black Poplar, Willow, Alder, and Birch that don’t mind being submerged slightly by water. We’ve also made sure that the species suit the area and will be good sources of nectar for insects and fruit for birds. Round the outside of the site, we’ve sown stretches of water-meadow plants and in the center, we’ve built a pond.
And how long will it take for those trees to grow?
Well, we plant trees at a range of heights. The tiny ones are about 60cm tall. We then have some 1m feathered. And some larger trees that are already at 3m. So you can already see a varied vertical structure, but it will take somewhere between 18 months and two years for a proper ‘forest’ to form.
I’m no forest expert, but that sounds like pretty speedy growth!
You’re right. We actually use a special planting technique called the Miyawaki Method which encourages faster tree growth. It involves denser planting than in standard forest plantation – i.e. the trees are grown closer together. The standard density is around 1.5m spacing, whereas our trees are more like 60cm apart. Because there are lots of trees in a small area, there is increased competition for sunlight. This competition means the trees effectively accelerate each other’s growth and a forest is established faster.
Amazing. Does that mean that we’ll start to see animal species sooner as well?
We actually have some animal species arriving already! Usually, if you create a habitat, animals find their way to it quite quickly. This is especially true of aquatic invertebrates, they just seem to seek out water, so the pond at Charlotte’s Wood is already full of insects. We’ve seen diving beetles, pondskaters, and water boatmen. It won’t be long before newts, frogs, toads, and dragonflies start to arrive too. We’ll have to wait a bit longer to see woodland species, but once the trees have a bit of height, the birds will start to colonize. We might even get otters and water voles, for whom wet woodland is a special habitat.
I’ve seen Creating Tomorrow’s Forests’ tree planting video – it looks like really hard work!
Yeah, the tree planters work really hard. We employ about 30 of them in total and they move in teams up and down the country to get all of the planting done across our various sites. They get paid per tree so there’s a real incentive for working quickly! Charlotte’s Wood has been a little different from what they’re used to though – it’s wet and boggy so they’ve really had to fight against the mud. https://www.youtube.com/embed/sDLYnA8M82M?controls=1&rel=0&playsinline=0&modestbranding=0&autoplay=0&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cactus-energy.com&widgetid=1
Fun fact: most professional tree planters can plant up to 4000 trees a day, at a rate of more than 7 trees a minute!
What do Creating Tomorrow’s Forests do for the rest of the year, when the tree planting season is over?
So tree planting season runs through the winter (roughly from November to April). The rest of the year there is plenty of maintenance work to be done – things like weed control and replacing any trees that have become damaged. We also carry out surveys to track how the sites are developing and keep an eye on biodiversity. At Charlotte’s Wood, we’re actually hoping to invite customers and local communities to help with surveying if they’d like to. This educational aspect is so important – it’s a real advantage that we can invite people to watch the growth of the very trees they helped to plant and learn more about biodiversity in the process.
That’s great. Aside from visiting the site, how can our readers get more involved with Creating Tomorrow’s Forests?
Anyone can plant individual trees through Creating Tomorrow’s Forests, either as a one-time purchase or through a monthly membership. We also have some special planting packages coming up in honor of World Earth Day. This will be taking place on Thursday 22nd April and will see over one billion participants around the world come together to drive positive action for our planet. This year’s theme is ‘Restore Our Earth’ so we’re giving people the opportunity to help restore the forest at Charlotte’s Wood. In return, you’ll receive your own personalized certificate and GPS coordinates of the trees you helped to plant.