Almost £15 million of funding will be pumped into the Northern Forest in the next year with just over one million new trees (at least 670 hectares) established.

The ambitious project, which aims to link trees across the M62 corridor from Liverpool to Hull, was launched in 2018 and already 3 million trees have been planted.

This has been made possible with funding from the Government’s £640 million Nature for Climate fund. £6 million will go directly to the Northern Forest to support the Woodland Trust’s Grow Back Greener programme, while £8.8 million will go to Community Forests within the Northern Forest area through the Trees for Climate programme announced recently.

Simon Mageean, the Woodland Trust’s Programme Director for the Northern Forest, said:

“This new funding is massively significant for this project and enables us to push on with this new phase. It will allow us to establish over one million new trees this winter and connect them better to the wider landscape, together with new woodlands in urban areas and rural areas across the Northern Forest. Not only do these new trees have the power to transform people’s lives through all the green space they bring in areas of traditionally low tree cover, they are also set to bring a big boost to our fight against climate change and encourage nature recovery.”

The Northern Forest was launched three years ago and is an ambitious plan to establish at least 50 million trees to encourage greater tree and woodland cover across an area spanning 13 million people and taking in the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull. It’s an area that only has 7.6% woodland cover – much lower than the England average.

As well as the Woodland Trust, it involves a partnership of community forests in the north – The Mersey Forest, City of Trees, White Rose Forest, and HEYwoods – which are working with the Woodland Trust to bring the Northern Forest to life.

Jessica Thompson, Director at City of Trees, added:

“We are entering a very significant phase in the delivery of the Northern Forest. This investment must not only provide the means to ensure our landscape is resilient to our changing climate, but also have a positive impact on people’s lives in the North. City of Trees is committed to ensuring that the investment in trees and woodlands open up opportunities for training and green jobs. We’ve seen the impacts of Covid-19 and lockdown and people relying on quality green space for their mental health and wellbeing. We want to encourage people to get directly involved in planting trees and looking after trees for years to come.”

Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith said:

“The Northern Forest is an outstanding example of how trees can benefit nature, climate and people. By creating woodlands close to urban and rural communities, we can provide greater links to nature in areas that need it most.

“There has never been a more exciting time for tree planting and I am delighted that through our Nature for Climate Fund we will see at least a million more trees being planted in the Northern Forest in the next year, contributing to our overall commitment to increase tree-planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by the end of this Parliament.”

Among the benefits of the forest are to reduce the risk of flooding, store thousands of tonnes of carbon, make people across the North happier and healthier and create thousands of new jobs.

In Leeds for example, through White Rose Forest, thousands of trees have been planted within the city’s catchment to alleviate the risk of flooding downstream.

Mr Mageean added:

“We want to see habitats thrive, planting rates soar, a woodland culture flourish and our ancient woodlands better protected. When the Northern Forest delivers its full potential, future generations will have somewhere beautiful and resilient in which to live, work, explore, learn and play.”

TV presenter and northerner George Clarke has given his backing to the Northern Forest initiative.

He said: “The Northern Forest is a tremendous project. Being a northerner myself we are proud of some of the glorious countryside we have up here but it’s always surprising to me how low tree cover is in the region. We desperately need more trees up here for both people and wildlife. It’s great to see investment going into supporting something so positive and it’s inspiring that from Liverpool to Hull there will be places for people to go and enjoy a bit of green space.”

The Government announced its Nature for Climate Fund to breathe fresh life into its pledge to create 30,000 hectares of trees per year across the UK by 2025. Last year the Woodland Trust also announced its ambitious target to plant 50 million trees by 2025.

More on the Northern Forest:

Notes to editors

For more information on this release contact Andy Bond in the Woodland Trust press office on 07725 480434.

About the Northern Forest

The Northern Forest has already established over 3 million new trees since 2018 and is transforming the landscape from coast to coast and in and around cities such as Liverpool, Chester, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, York and Hull.

A partnership between The Woodland Trust, the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK, and Community Forests: City of Trees, Mersey Forest, HEYwoods and White Rose Forest is delivering this ambitious project. The partnership is connecting people with nature through the Northern Forest, creating growth and investment opportunities, reducing climate change and flood risk, improving health and wellbeing, supporting the rural economy and developing innovative funding mechanisms for the future.

The community forests in the north – The Mersey Forest, White Rose Forest, City of Trees and HEYwoods – have been working with the Woodland Trust to take the Northern Forest from concept to reality. They all have a long and successful history of working together and combine over a century of environmental regeneration and green infrastructure experience.

About the Woodland Trust

The Woodland Trust 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:

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. 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 approximately 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free so everyone can benefit from woods and trees.