One tree, our wood – planting trees with schools and colleges

Pupils from Balfour Primary School planting a tree on the Surrenden campus

An avenue of more than 30 trees are being planted on the Surrenden campus in Brighton this week during National Tree Week (26 November to 4 December).

The semi mature trees will go along a bridlepath that is currently called Stringer Way and will be young disease-resistant elm trees. It is believed to be the first elm avenue planted in the city since Victorian times.

Brighton & Hove is home to the national elm collection and is known nationally for the way it manages elm disease. Sadly, over the last few years we have lost many of the city’s iconic trees. This project is one way of ensuring the future of elms in our city, providing habitat for wildlife such as the white-letter hairstreak butterfly which breeds on elm.

Wildlife corridor

The avenue of trees will form a wildlife corridor linking Hollingbury and Burstead woods, the Dorothy Stringer nature reserve woodland, Balfour’s wildlife reserve and Varndean School and Varndean College’s wildlife areas. The new tree canopy will link up the mature tree line into Withdean and Preston Parks. 

Environmental leaders from Balfour, Dorothy Stringer and Varndean schools, which share the campus, have been key to the project’s success.

Together with Varndean College and Downs View Link College they formed a biodiversity action group and developed a plan to restore nature and biodiversity, enhancing their work on the Our City, Our World sustainability, climate change and environmental education work in Brighton & Hove schools. 

Bringing nature into the city

Councillor Hannah Allbrooke, chair of the Children, Young People & Skills Committee, said: “It is inspiring to see schools working so positively together to make space for nature, improve biodiversity and reduce the effects of climate change.

"The Surrenden campus is an important site as it links directly with the South Downs, bringing nature into the city. The underplanting will further enrich the biodiversity of the area and the whole project will increase the opportunities for children and young people to be closer to nature.

“As a council we’ve invested £1 million for tree planting through the Carbon Neutral Fund and with the support of fantastic volunteers we’ll continue to seek out further funding opportunities like the Urban Tree Challenge Fund.”

Urban Tree Challenge Fund

Last year Balfour Primary School became part of the council’s bid for the first round of funding from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund.  As a result 12 trees were planted at the school in the spring with a further 12 to be planted shortly.

Dorothy Stringer secondary school successfully applied for the next round and will be planting 24 elms. 

Varndean School supported a wider initiative for planting to create shade on the campus as well as a haven for pollinators. This will include wildflower and bulb planting under the trees.

The Urban Tree Challenge Fund is run by the Forestry Commission. It pays for tree planting in parks and open spaces, as well as watering costs for 3 years The council has paid for the stakes, wire and contractors to do the planting. 

Volunteer Friends groups from Brighton & Hove Green Spaces Forum have now planted 373 trees and help with mulching and top up watering in drought conditions. They have played a leading role in the city’s success in bidding for this funding.

Get involved

Ongoing plans include creating more woodland with children from Brighton & Hove schools next year, through a ‘one tree, our wood’ initiative.

If you have an open space and are interested in planting more trees next autumn contact with ‘UTCF’ as the subject title.

More information

Discover how trees fight climate change on the Woodland Trust website

Get involved with National Tree Week

Find out more about Brighton & Hove Green Spaces Forum

See how climate change and biodiversity are part of learning in the city’s schools through the Our City Our World programme.

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