We have unveiled the sites of four new woods to mark the Centenary of the First World War.
Exciting plans to create four major new woods to honour the heroes of the First World War are moving forward fast and we've just unveiled the sites chosen for the project – one in each country of the UK.
Almost half a million trees will be planted in our Centenary Woods across more than 300 hectares (800 acres) of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, creating a vibrant living memorial for those who played a role 100 years ago, both at the front and at home.
Planting gets underway this autumn, with schools and armed service organisations mucking in and we can’t wait to get going. We’re still fundraising to buy the Welsh land, and we urgently need people’s help to support all four sites so that we can start planting this autumn.
Sainsbury’s is pledging £1 million per year as lead sponsor, alongside the Royal British Legion and the Cadets, and any time now we’ll be launching the Dedicate a Tree scheme, where people can donate £20, enabling us to dedicate a tree in a Centenary Wood of their choosing.
Langley Vale, Surrey
The flagship site for the Centenary Woods project is tucked inside the M25 just south of Epsom, a surprisingly rich countryside of ancient woods and chalk grassland.
Simon Bateman, who is heading the Trust’s plans at Langley Vale, says the potential is vast: "We’ve got 58ha (144 acres) of existing ancient woods, all criss-crossed with open meadow like an old medieval landscape. We’re already seeing masses of bluebells, which is wonderful, and there is lots of potential for orchids and other chalk-loving species to regenerate – plus the rare butterflies that go with them."
The Trust plans to plant 200,000 native saplings, including a 1km avenue of tall growing trees, flecked with wildflowers, and a more manicured memorial to remember those who served in the First World War. Ultimately there will be miles of footpaths and bridleways to enjoy.
"Everyone’s invited to join our guided walk here on 28 June," adds Simon, "then there will be public planting events this autumn."
Scotland’s Centenary Wood is intimately linked with the armed forces: the 40ha (100-acre) site sits beside Edinburgh’s Dreghorn Barracks, and parts are used for military manoeuvres. Says site manager Alan Mitchell: "We’re on the doorstep of the city, and the site laps against the Pentland Hills. Trench systems were dug here to train troops sent to the First World War battlefields, so the connections run deep."
The Trust will plant at least 50,000 trees, including an avenue of wild service trees that will burn red every autumn, well timed for Remembrance Day. "We plan planting days in November and March," adds Alan. "We’d love everyone to get involved."
Brackfield, County Londonderry
"This will create a lasting memorial for the whole of Ireland," says the Trust’s Patrick Cregg of our Centenary Wood in Northern Ireland. "At least 40,000 Irish people died in the First World War, and we’ll plant a tree for each of them, plus poppy-rich wildflower meadows running down to the river."
The wood will take root along the scenic banks of the River Faughan, south of Londonderry, already colonised by red squirrels, otters and kingfishers. It will include a memorial arboretum with 40 larger trees, and create a 10-mile circuit of footpaths for people to explore. Says Patrick: "We’ll also be holding a competition with schools and uniformed organisations to design a sculpture to mark this as a Centenary Wood."
Ffos Las, Carmarthenshire
A question mark hangs over plans for the Welsh Centenary Wood, since funds have yet to be found to buy the site, beside the new Ffos Las racecourse near Llanelli.
"It’s the perfect setting, but we urgently need to raise £560,000," explains the Trust’s Jerry Langford. "We hope supporters will chip in to help, including writing letters of support. It would be such a pity if Wales doesn’t have a wood to honour its heroes."
If successful, the project will transform a former colliery site, adding 90,000 native trees to link with the Trust’s existing Ffos Las Wood nearby, planted to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. "We hope to create flower-rich glades and ponds to encourage the native wildlife," Jerry adds.