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Source: City of Oxford

Two Tiny Forests will be planted at Meadow Lane Nature Reserve and Foxwell Drive in the last week of January to help preserve and promote biodiversity in the heart of the city.

Oxford City Council has worked with Oxford-based environment charity Earthwatch Europe to bring the national initiative to life in the city. It will involve 600 trees per forest being planted densely in tennis-court size plots, maximising benefits per m2 of land.

Oxford City Council has provided land for each of the Tiny Forests. Funding for establishing the forests and a public engagement programme comes from OVO Foundation’s £1million Climate Changers Programme – for the Tiny Forest on Foxwell Drive, and from Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund – for the Tiny Forest at Meadow Lane Nature Reserve.

The planting was originally planned for last year but had to be postponed due to lockdown. As the current lockdown will last until the end of the current tree planting season (which ends in February), Earthwatch’s landscaping contractors will undertake the work shortly without community involvement, or risk losing the funding altogether. This will at least ensure these plantations will be in place for the local communities to enjoy and help maintain once restrictions are lifted.

A bench commemorating the occasion, bearing a special plaque celebrating the virtue of green spaces, will be installed at the same time.

Located in urban settings, Tiny Forests provide an oasis for plants, insects, birds and small mammals, and connect people with nature in their local area and support general wellbeing. They offer a place to relax and watch wildlife.

These Tiny Forests will also connect children and teachers from local schools – including Cheney School, Barton Park Primary School and Rose Hill Primary School – with nature. Once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and schools can reopen, educational experts from Earthwatch will provide training and resources for the schools’ teachers to educate children in these inspiring outdoor classrooms, breaking down the boundaries of typical classroom-based learning. The education team will also provide immersive workshops at the forest for the children, allowing them to learn first-hand about nature and the environment.

The planting method used encourages accelerated forest development and uses no chemicals or fertilisers. Tiny Forests have low management and maintenance requirements after the first two years and promote rich biodiversity.

After planting, Earthwatch will draw on its unrivalled experience of engaging members of the public in science, to collect data and assess the benefits of Tiny Forests. With the help of citizen scientists from the surrounding community, Earthwatch will collect data on: carbon absorption, flood mitigation, thermal comfort and biodiversity. Earthwatch will then assess the environmental and social benefits they – and other Tiny Forests across the UK – provide over time.

The review set out the initiatives that have been put in place to further protect and increase biodiversity in OCC managed green spaces in recent years, including the plant of 7000 new trees, and identified what additional steps can be taken to ensure these vital urban habitats are achieving their full potential. In combination, opportunities were identified to introduce more sustainable grounds maintenance practices and to further encourage public awareness and involvement with wildlife.

The planting of the Tiny Forest is in support of the findings of the council’s Biodiversity Review for Oxford City Council Parks and Nature Areas 2020. The review set out the projects and initiatives already in place to support biodiversity and improve sustainability and identified further projects and initiatives.

“I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring the Tiny Forest initiative to Oxford. Despite their small size, they deliver significant tangible benefits, including flood mitigation, havens for wildlife, and spaces for people to connect with nature. It’s a shame that because of the Covid-19 safety restrictions local schoolchildren are not able to be involved in the planting as planned, nevertheless, I hope these tiny pockets of nature will bring pleasure to the local community for decades to come.”

Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Parks

“We are excited to be planting two Tiny Forests in partnership with Oxford City Council. At a time of great social and environmental challenges for individuals, communities, business, and government, Tiny Forests present rich and varied opportunities to partner in tackling the environmental crisis, connect people with nature, and make a valuable contribution to science. We hope Oxford’s Tiny Forests will inspire others to support a Tiny Forest in their local area.”

Louise Hartley, Tiny Forest Programme Manager, Earthwatch Europe

MIL OSI United Kingdom