HUNDREDS of trees are being planted at a Leicester school as part a campaign to create a network of urban micro forests in cities across the UK.
Leicester City Council is working with environment charity Earthwatch Europe to bring the Tiny Forest initiative to life at Queensmead Primary Academy, in Braunstone.
It will see 600 native trees planted densely in a tennis-court sized plot of land on the school grounds, helping to maximise the biodiversity benefits per square metre of land.
Located in urban settings, Tiny Forests aim to provide an oasis for plants, insects, birds and small mammals, helping to connect people with nature in their local area.
Leicester is one of the first cities in the UK to take part in the Tiny Forest project led by Earthwatch Europe, and in this case funded through the OVO Foundation’s £1million Climate Changers Programme.
Around sixty key worker schoolchildren were involved in the tree planting sessions led by Leicester City Council’s sustainable schools team, with safe social distancing in place.
The Tiny Forest planting method used – called the Miyawaki method – involves planting native trees closely together, in loose, nutrient-rich soil with no chemicals or fertilisers. This encourages accelerated forest development, with low management and maintenance requirements after the first two years, and helps rapidly promote biodiversity.
The forest will play an important role in supporting the school’s environmental education.
Earthwatch will provide training and resources for the school to help use the tiny forest as an inspiring outdoor classroom. Once Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted and it is safe to do so, immersive workshops will be held at the forest for the children, allowing them to learn first-hand about nature and the environment.
Citizen scientists, from the local community, will also be invited to help collect data and assess the benefits of their new Tiny Forest, including carbon absorption, flood mitigation, thermal comfort and impact on biodiversity.
Liz Latham, Principal at Queensmead Primary Academy, said: “We are delighted to work with Earthwatch Europe and Leicester City Council on this incredible opportunity for our pupils and the wider community to enrich our environment.
“At Queensmead, part of the Greenwood Academies Trust, we champion opportunities for pupils to develop an awareness of their responsibilities as local, national and global citizens both now and in the future. This project will support our ongoing work developing pupil character as well as our continuing drive to broaden pupils’ experiences outside of the classroom.’’
Deputy City Mayor Cllr Adam Clarke, who leads on environment and transportation, said: “I am really proud that we have been able to bring a Tiny Forest to Leicester and be part of the launch of this fabulous initiative in the UK.
“As well as creating an important habitat for wildlife in the heart of the city, the new Tiny Forest will provide a tremendous resource, building on the environmental education provided as part of our citywide Eco-Schools programme. It is a very tangible way of helping young people connect with vital issues around biodiversity, sustainability and the climate emergency.”
Louise Hartley, Tiny Forest programme manager at Earthwatch Europe, said: “We are excited to be planting this Tiny Forest in partnership with Queensmead Academy, Leicester City Council and the OVO Foundation.
“At a time of great social and environmental challenges for individuals, communities and government, Tiny Forests present rich and varied opportunities to partner in tackling the environmental crisis, connect people with nature and make a valuable contribution to science. We hope this latest Tiny forest in Leicester will inspire others to support a Tiny Forest in their local area.”
Caroline Silke, Head of OVO Foundation, said: “We're passionate about educating the younger generation on how to reduce their carbon footprint, protect the physical environment, and limit their impact on the planet.
“Tiny Forests help children learn about the environment and sustainability in a really accessible way. By planting 12 Tiny Forests in urban communities across the UK with Earthwatch, we will help connect children with their local green spaces and show them how they can protect it for future generations.”
The first Tiny Forest in the UK was planted in Witney, Oxfordshire in March 2020.
Supporting local biodiversity and promoting environmental education are key elements of the first Leicester Climate Emergency Strategy. The new strategy and accompanying action plan set out an ambitious vision for how the city needs to change to move towards becoming carbon-neutral and adapting to the effects of global heating by 2030, or sooner.