It is vital that we make more room for nature. We can achieve this by expanding woodland and linking habitats.

By simply planting more of the right trees in the right place, we can ensure that habitats, and the wildlife and people who depend on them, not only survive but flourish. 

An overview of the Eastern Claylands 

The woodland cover in Eastern Claylands is 36,000 hectares in size.

Where is the Eastern Claylands?

The Eastern Claylands of Essex and Suffolk is an area of beauty and is known for its inspirational scenery. It is a largely agricultural region renowned for its pretty villages, stunning countryside, and historic market towns, and was the inspiration for John Constable's famous paintings. Many of the ancient landscape features, including hedgerows, woodland, individual trees, and beautiful river valleys, that were recorded in Constable's work, still remain. 

What makes the Eastern Claylands special?

A third of this is semi-natural ancient woodland or plantations on ancient woodland sites. More than half of the tree canopy is made of trees outside woods (TOWs), mainly in hedgerows and fields, but also in wood pasture and orchards. These trees, which act as refuge for wildlife, contributing to landscape connectivity and enhancing biodiversity, face many threats including disease, urban expansion, and changes in land use. Trees outside woods once formed an important part of the culture and local character of the area. 

The area supports many fine examples of ancient and veteran trees, particularly oak, and has one of the highest concentrations of medieval wood pasture and parkland in England. It is this combination of features that makes the landscape special and essential for biodiversity, local communities, and tourists. 

Did you know?

Between 1850 and the present day, only 51% of TOWs still exist, and there has been a loss of boundary trees (54%) and scattered trees (84%). 

Why do we need to take action?

This important landscape is under threat. The Eastern Claylands comprise 5,000 km2 of agricultural land.

Changes in land use for agriculture and development, coupled with the impact of pests and diseases, such as ash dieback, have resulted in a significant decline in trees, especially trees outside woods.

The loss of these historic trees is concerning as they represent the loss of the particularly valuable veteran trees that they would have become had they survived. 

Trees and woods are integral to a resilient landscape and are essential for people, wildlife, and the environment. Their loss can have far-reaching impacts.

Planting more trees will help to: 

  • improve air and water quality, and reduce global warming
  • provide habitats for many species of wildlife, attract pollinators, and improve biodiversity
  • shelter livestock and crops
  • improve drainage and soil stability, reducing flooding and soil erosion
  • alleviate stress by boosting health and wellbeing.
We have enabled increased connectivity

Between people and the land, between farming and forestry, and between ecologically rich habitats.

What we're doing

With our partners, we are working closely with farmers and landowners.

Our aim is to restore and protect the landscape by: 

  • enhancing existing ancient woodland sites and improving the management of ancient and veteran trees, including planting the ancient trees of the future
  • shielding trees and woods from potential threats
  • supporting woodland owners with appropriate management to yield multiple benefits
  • expanding existing woodlands, increasing species diversity and the age mix of trees
  • creating new woodlands and planting individual trees, to increase the amount of habitat and canopy in both rural and urban areas
  • connecting the landscape's multiple habitats by planting, restoring, and enhancing hedgerows so that they can act as a corridor between habitats
  • reconnecting people to trees and woods, helping them to unlock economic and social benefits, ensuring that the Eastern Claylands are valued and protected now and in the future.

 

15,000m
of hedging is being provided to landowners in 2021/22

Introducing new woodlands

We are working with Suffolk County Council and local farmers to help connect up the landscape with newly planted hedgerows.

A mixture of native species, including hawthorn, field maple, hazel, and dogwood, has been planted, creating new habitats and wildlife corridors, as well as shelter for livestock and crops.

How you can get involved

If you’re a landowner in the Eastern Claylands and you’d like to hear more about planting trees on your land or protecting your woodland, please get in touch at easternclaylands@woodlandtrust.org.uk.
We offer fully subsidised packs of 50 saplings to farmers and landowners in the Eastern Claylands every winter. These trees have been carefully selected to best replace trees lost to disease or removed for safety reasons. You can order your tree pack from April 2022.

Visit the Eastern Claylands

See for yourself what we have already achieved.

We care for many woods across the Eastern Claylands, which are free for everyone to explore and enjoy. Find a wood to explore.