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Poet branches out into a greener future

As the Welsh Government invites expressions of interest for £1 million of support for new tree planting, Wales’ former National Poet, Gillian Clarke, has been busy planting trees, four and a half thousand of them, at her smallholding near Llandysul in Ceredigion.

And thanks to the Welsh Government’s Glastir woodland creation scheme, all farmers and landowners are being encouraged follow her example, maybe making better use of areas of land which are of limited agricultural value in ways that will support the farm business. The grants can amount to up to £9,000 per hectare and the deadline for expressions of interest is 10 May.

Gillian Clarke was Wales’ National Poet from 2008-2016. She was born in Cardiff and lives in Ceredigion. Her work has been on the GCSE and A Level exam syllabus for over thirty years, and she performs her poetry regularly for student audiences at Poetry Live, and in several European cities. She was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2010 and the Wilfred Owen Award in 2012. Trees are one of her inspirations.

She says: “Four and a half thousand native trees: sessile oak, downy birch, rowan, hazel, wild cherry - even the names are beautiful - newly planted on six acres of our steepest land, fenced off from grazing sheep. Already the first leaves are opening. Red kites float overhead, birds are singing. Trees for the future, alive and hopeful. They inspire me to write poems, and a book about trees."

Gillian Clarke's trees are planted on her smallholding near Llandysul. (Photo: Gillian Clarke)
Gillian Clarke's trees are planted on her smallholding near Llandysul. (Photo: Gillian Clarke)

Glastir woodland creation grants can amount to up to £9,000 per hectare

The Welsh Government’s Woodlands for Wales Strategy, launched last year, aspires to increase woodland cover in Wales by at least 2,000 ha a year from 2020 to 2030. It proposes an increase in tree cover in the wider environment, on farms, the rural landscape and in areas around towns and cities, both to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and also to create a resilient and productive agriculture and towns that are healthier and more pleasant to live in. The Glastir woodland creation grants are intended to encourage landowners to help deliver this.

Sharon Thomas, the Woodland Trust’s woodland outreach manager for Wales, says: “It’s brilliant that Gillian Clarke is setting such a wonderful example to other landowners. Native trees can offer us so many benefits, reducing flood risk, improving water quality and providing superb habitats for wildlife, as well of course as a renewable source of valuable timber.

"At a time when, sadly, there is huge uncertainly around farming in Wales, the Glastir woodland creation scheme offers a great opportunity to farmers and other landowners to make use of all of their land in ways that are sustainable both economically and environmentally.

"Glastir woodland creation grants can amount to up to £9,000 per hectare. The Woodland Trust can offer free advice and support in making use of these, and we’re finding there is an increasing interest in this among landowners. There’s more about the help we can offer landowners online at: woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees

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Notes to editors

Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw) is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife. The Trust has three key aims:  i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. These include over 100 sites in Wales, with a total area of 2,897 hectares (7,155 acres). It offers free public access to nearly all of its sites. The Trust’s Welsh language name, “Coed Cadw”, is an old Welsh term, used in medieval laws to describe protected or preserved woodland.