New tiny forests to be introduced to boost biodiversity in Oxford

Image Description: A close-up photo of the branch of a tree. 

Two Tiny Forests will be planted at Meadow Lane Nature Reserve and Foxwell Drive in the last week of January to help preserve and promote biodiversity in the heart of the city.

Oxford City Council has worked with Earthwatch Europe, an Oxford-based environment charity to bring the national initiative to the city. It will involve 600 trees per forest being planted in tennis court sized plots, seeking to maximise each m² of land.

The City Council has provided land for each of the Tiny Forests. Funding for the project has come from OVO Foundation’s £1 million Climate Changers Programme for the Foxwell Drive forest and from Defra’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund for the Meadow Lane Nature Reserve Forest.

The planting, which was originally planned for last year, had to be postponed due to the November lockdown. As the current lockdown will last until the end of the current tree planting season in February, the forests will be planted without community involvement to avoid losing funding. The community will be able to enjoy these forests and help with maintenance once restrictions are lifted.

The planting method used encourages accelerated forest development and uses no chemicals or fertilisers. Tiny Forests have low management and maintenance requirements after the first two years and promote rich biodiversity.

A bench commemorating the occasion, bearing a special plaque celebrating the virtue of green spaces, will be installed simultaneously.

The aim of these Tiny Forests is to promote biodiversity by providing a miniature habitat for small wildlife as well as to connect people with nature in their local area. The forests also help to connect children and teachers from local schools with nature. Once restrictions are lifted educational experts from Earthwatch will provide training and resources for teachers to educate children in these outdoor classrooms. The educational team will also provide immersive workshops at the forest for children, allowing them to learn first-hand about nature and the environment.

Councillor Linda Smith, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Parks said: “I’m delighted we’ve been able to bring the Tiny Forest initiative to Oxford. Despite their small size they deliver significant tangible benefits, including flood mitigation, havens for wildlife and spaces for people to connect with nature. It’s a shame that because of the Covid-19 safety restrictions local schoolchildren are not able to be involved with the planting as planned, nevertheless, I hope these tiny pockets of nature will bring pleasure to the local community for decades to come.”

Louise Hartley, Tiny Forest Programme Manager, Earthwatch Europe said: “We are excited to be planting two Tiny Forests in partnership with Oxford City Council. At a time of great social and environmental challenges for individuals, communities, businesses 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 Oxford’s Tiny Forests will inspire others to support a Tiny Forest in their local area.”

Image Credit: Madeleine Ross