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Community tree projects planting ideas and nature

Trees have added to pupils’ blossoming understanding of climate action and about other cultures. The borough’s first ‘tiny forest’ has been planted at one school while, at another, a pair of trees have helped it branch out to Japan. Meanwhile, a third planting session saw people of all ages help to put in a group of fruit trees and hedges.

Pupils and teachers planting a tree in a school field
Pupils, teachers and MP Rupa Huq planting one of the cherry blossom trees at West Acton Primary School

West Acton Primary School held a ceremony recently to plant two Sakura cherry blossom trees. The school, in Noel Road, received the gift of the trees to commemorate the ongoing friendship between Japan and the UK – from a collection of 6,000 currently being planted throughout the country in parks, gardens and at schools.

Local MP Rupa Huq joined pupils from West Acton’s school council and its eco committee to plant the trees.

Headteacher Karen Kondo said: “Japanese culture is becoming very popular amongst young people today, especially Manga and Anime. However, Sakura – cherry blossom – is a beautiful symbol of Japan and so important to Japanese people. They celebrate the blossoms each year.

“We hope that, in years to come, we will see these trees blossom here, too. Furthermore, we have a strong Japanese community at West Acton so it is extra special to have a small piece of their culture here. Planting trees, following two years of the COVID-19 pandemic also feels like a sign of hope.”

This Sakura project was launched in the autumn of 2017 during a meeting between prime ministers Shinzo Abe and Theresa May.

Forest (and thoughts) growing in Hanwell

Soon after the cherry blossoms were in the ground, a whole mini forest was planted at Hobbayne Primary School in Hanwell.

This ‘Tiny Forest’ included 300 pupils each planting a tree, in collaboration with Earthwatch. As you can see in our video at the top of this article, deputy council leader Deirdre Costigan joined in the fun.

A Tiny Forest is a dense, fast growing native woodland of around 600 trees planted in an area the size of a tennis court. Its aim is to help mitigate the impacts of climate change, create a rich habitat to support urban wildlife and, in this case, to help reconnect children to the natural world and increase their awareness of the importance of us all to protect it.

A group of school children standing with a woman next to a tree sapling they have planted
Councillor Deirdre Costigan with pupils at Hobbayne Primary School planting trees as part of a ‘tiny forest’

This was the third Tiny Forest to be planted in London and the first in our borough.

Councillor Costigan, who is also the council’s cabinet member for climate action, said: “We had the most fantastic morning planting a tiny forest.

“In total, 600 trees have been planted with every child at the school planting one of them. In the future, this forest will grow and develop and the space will also include an outdoor classroom, so that the children can see for themselves the difference this will make to air quality and biodiversity.

“Ealing Council is committed to making sure that we can do everything we can to fight the climate emergency and will shortly be publishing our biodiversity action plan.

“This is the first school in the borough to have a tiny forest, and I hope we’re going to see lots more in the future.”

Tree nursery and thousands planted

Around 37,000 new trees and saplings have been planted in the borough since 2018 as part of the council’s biodiversity action plan (exceeding its target of 30,000).

Working with local volunteers, the council’s tree planting programme has already seen the creation of a nut orchard in Elthorne Park, a partnership with the national organisation Trees for Cities to plant more than 370 trees on the Racecourse Estate in Northolt, and the planting of 15,000 trees and saplings along the Greenford to Gurnell Greenway.

And the council’s park rangers are supporting an ongoing community project at Horsenden Hill to create a tree nursery where saplings can grow and develop into trees for future planting wherever they are needed in the borough. We paid it a visit recently.

Valentine’s Day tree planting session in West Ealing

Local people of all ages dropped into Dean Gardens in West Ealing last month (14 February) for a community planting event aimed at boosting biodiversity and creating an even more pleasant green space for all.

Three volunteers planting a tree in a park
Dean Gardens community planting event – putting in fruit trees and hedges

Five local volunteers worked with experts from gardening and food co-operative Cultivate London and, despite a bit of rain on the day, everyone worked hard to plant six new fruit trees – including apple, pear and plum. They also planted an impressive 90 hedge plants – including hawthorn, hornbeam, maple and dog rose, all of which are species that help biodiversity flourish.

It is just one part of a range of ongoing initiatives to improve Dean Gardens. Following consultation with residents and the community last summer, the council is enhancing the play area and outdoor gym, upgrading CCTV to make the park safer, and introducing new compactor bins to ensure the popular green spaces remains clean and tidy for everyone. More improvements are set to follow in the next phase of the scheme later in the year.

Cultivate London will be running regular, free gardening events at Dean Gardens from Tuesday, 19 April. Anyone interesting in getting involved can email parks@ealing.gov.uk for further details.

Tiny Forest revisit

Leader of Ealing Council, Peter Mason and Councillor Deirdre Costigan, cabinet member for climate action, revisited Hobbayne Primary School one year on from the planting of the tiny forest to see how it’s developing.

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