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Creating a "Forest of Flowers"

Swathes of wildflowers. Tens of thousands of trees. Bees and butterflies. This is the beautiful vision of a farmer with a passion for conservation who is using a unique technique to turn 74 acres of his land into a beautiful wildflower woodland.

Alwyn Craven and his mother own more than 120 acres of land at Home Farm, near York and are turning most of it over to nature.

“These are exciting times at Home Farm as things will change rapidly in the next couple of years. Not only will the trees grow, we expect a new array of wild flowers and a rapid increase in the numbers of insects, butterflies and bees.”
Alwyn Craven, York based farm owner

They're using a unique technique known as “soil inversion.” A one metre deep plough is used to turn soil over, burying weed seeds and fertile soil. Wildflower seeds are then spread over the ground and trees are planted. The result is a “Forest of Flowers,” where wildflowers have sprung up around oaks, alders and poplars; all provided by us.

Peter Leeson, our Partnerships Manager, said:

“This really is an inspirational project." 

“The Forest of Flowers technique creates reduced fertility on the surface which allows the wildflowers to thrive bringing in many thousands of insects to feast on nectar and pollen – in turn this rapidly increases the breadth and character of biodiversity on the site – and is of course stunningly beautiful!” 

Alwyn studied at Kew Gardens and came back to the farm just a couple of years ago. He was concerned about the lack of wildlife and very poor state of the soils. Alwyn was interested in the Forest of Flowers (FoF) sites he had seen elsewhere in Yorkshire and sought advice and support from the Woodland Trust.

Alwyn said:

”When I came back to the farm, I looked around and saw that certain farming methods were detrimental to flora and fauna such as the use of pesticides and vast swathes of arable grassland and I wanted to do something about it. I am passionate about conservation – a high number of our wildflower meadows have been lost and I wanted to see what I could do to help it. The soil inversion technique promotes the growing of wildflowers around the strategic planting of trees.

"These are exciting times as Home Farm will change rapidly in the next couple of years. Not only will the trees grow, we expect a new array of wild flowers and a rapid increase in the numbers of insects, butterflies and bees.”

The tree planting has been funded by a grant from the Forestry Commission with additional funding from us.

Tree planting has seen help from various volunteer groups and businesses – including Bilfinger GVA, a commercial property business and one of our partners which funds our Woodland Carbon programme, planted more than 500 saplings.

Find out more about planting your own trees with help from us