The scale and schedule was ambitious, but we can proudly say that the first year of planting at our new Community Woodland site near Houghton Conquest and Ampthill has been completed!

TAKE A LOOK:

THE FACTS

17,900 trees and shrubs planted over

11.5 days across

11.47 hectares (28.4 acres) using

30 volunteers putting in

340+ hours on site, helped by

10 members of staff and 2 VIP guests (High Sheriff of Bedfordshire).

DIGGING A LITTLE DEEPER...

The site has been planted with a combination of species including oak, hornbeam, wild cherry and alder - all grown and sourced within the UK, and chosen for their ability to tolerate and address climate change and increasing temperatures.

The native mix reflects the natural character of neighbouring Kings Wood, an ancient semi-natural woodland and SSSI. As our newly planted trees grow and the new woodland takes shape, it will help to buffer and protect Kings Wood - something which is hugely important now and for generations to come, as we know that only 7% of our native woodlands are in good condition. Over time, the wildlife currently confined to the ancient woodland will be able to expand out and take up residence in the new woodland, helping improve the resilience of our woodlands and their wildlife to the impacts of climate change

The historic significance of the land, the nearby Houghton House and the distinctive landform were just some of the special considerations that we had to plan into the site, and through consultation with a landscape consultant we've been able to design a planting scheme that is sensitive to the area as well as providing a wonderful resource for local people to enjoy by foot, bike or horse, with incredible views over the Marston Vale and beyond.

This first phase is part of 38 hectares bought by working together with the Woodland Trust, and now controlled by us via a 999-year lease to the Forest of Marston Vale. As we continue to plant it up over the next few years, it will become an integral part of the green heart of Bedfordshire that we're creating.

(SLIGHTLY LESS) PEOPLE POWER

Whereas we'd usually see hundreds of local people turn up by the coach-load to help at our public tree planting events, Covid restrictions made this year particularly tricky, as Jo our Community Engagement Officer and chief Tree Planter explains in her blog about planting a new woodland during a pandemic and national lockdown.

Thankfully we were able to call in support from one of our reliable contractors, but there was another incredible group of people that we couldn't have completed this project without - our fantastic volunteer team.

Thanks to the determination of a small but select group (and careful Covid planning) we were able to deliver on site in a way that felt closer to "normal" than we ever thought possible in the last few months.

The weather was on (then off, then on...) our side and, although the wide open site made social distancing easy, it exposed our team to the elements. Even in difficult circumstances they worked tirelessly to plant trees and create this fantastic new community asset for the people of Bedfordshire.

We couldn't be more proud of what everyone involved has achieved and excited to see this woodland grow, and thankfully it appears that they agree:

As a resident of Houghton Conquest, I was excited when I heard of plans for a new woodland next to Kings Wood. Our family has enjoyed many walks in this area and apart from giving us more woodland to enjoy locally, it feels good to know that I can join local groups to help to reduce the human impact on our planet, with so much forest destruction happening in the UK and around the world.  I've also become a "Friend of the Forest" to support the Forest of Marston Vale with their plans for recovery and planting of local areas.

With lockdown restrictions I was also relieved to learn the volunteer supported planting of this new wood was still going ahead, despite not being able to hold a public event. Along with friends Linsay and Anna I enlisted straight away.

On the planting site I came to appreciate what a vast, peaceful and breathtaking site it truly is. There are many points from which to admire the panoramic views of Bedfordshire. I hope the Forest of Marston Vale install plenty of benches so we can sit and take it all in!

- Lisa Guiness, Houghton Conquest resident and tree planter

It was like a walk down memory lane! I was so happy to be involved with tree planting schemes again, after years of planting with Bedfordshire County Council in the seventies at the start of the restoration of the brickfields.

The site at Houghton Conquest is stunning, placed between Kings Wood ancient woodland and Houghton House, John Bunyan’s House Beautiful in Pilgrims Progress. The view from here is expansive and so different from when the chimneys were pumping out their smoke

Such a release from lockdown to be up on these rolling hills listening to the lambs bleating whilst planting hundreds of trees in soil that is so easy to dig in. It was also amazing to go back on different days seeing how the number of planted trees had grown, showing how hard everyone had been working.

In future decades this forest planting is going to be a wonderful testament to one of the positives of 2021.

- Elaine Wheeler, FOMV Volunteer and tree planter

THE NEXT STEP...

You may have noticed that we don't have a name for our new woodland just yet - it's so brand new!

Now that planting season has ended we’re going to be using the coming months to start going back through consultation documents and working with different groups to shortlist potential names to ensure we find one befitting of the site’s social, historical and environmental significance, so sign up to our newsletter for updates and your chance to be involved.


We can only keep creating woodlands with your help. For a small monthly donation you can become a Friend of the Forest, helping us plant and protect more trees in your local area.

Or even the smallest amount would help us towards our goal of another 5 million trees in the ground:

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