Volunteers progress Carden Hill Habitat Improvement Project

Brighton & Hove is well-known for our famous Elm collection and the beautiful array of other trees within the area. Throughout the city we currently have over 12,000 street trees and manage 500 hectares of woodland.

Over the next 6 years we’re planning on investing £1m from the Climate Change fund, increasing the number of trees in the city, along with planting more diverse species - helping to improve our street scene and maximise biodiversity. 

Through careful consideration of projects such as the Carden Hill Habitat Improvement Programme, we are creating and restoring flower-rich chalk grassland, introducing sheep grazing and creating a flower-rich ‘B-Bank’ for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

At a time when global warming is happening at a faster rate than ever before, the Woodland Trust estimates that a young woodland formed from mixed native species of trees can lock up 400+ tonnes of carbon per hectare in trees, roots and soil.

Carden Hill Woodland Habitat Improvement Project

The Carden Hill woodland project was initiated in spring 2021, planting 2,000 trees and shrubs within the first phase.

Due to lockdown this initial phase was completed by members of the City Parks Ranger team, along with the support from Brighton & Hove City Council Tree Planting Officers.

Councillor Amy Heley, Chair of Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee said: “Trees are a key aspect in improving our health, society and environment.

“This funding has come at a time that is more important than ever, supporting different species and habitats to thrive, while removing carbon from the atmosphere.

“By investing and carefully planning the species of trees, while introducing new woodlands such as Carden Hill, we’re continuing to ensure a legacy that can be enjoyed for years to come. This project would not have been possible without the dedication or help of local volunteers.”

What is happening now?

Completion of Phase 2 of the woodland is imminent. The volunteers braved the cool wintery weather led by City Parks Ranger, Nick Lane with the enthusiastic support of Ben Galley, Brighton & Hove’s Tree Planting Officer, planting 2,400 trees and shrubs in total.

Roughly 800 are woodland edge species and approximately 10% are plant/shrubs such as dog rose and honeysuckle. The team have made fantastic progress, with the current planting tally standing at 1,800 whips, leaving another 600 to go. Keep up the great work!

Alistair, often juggles his work-life to make time in his schedule to volunteer and said: “I know very little about trees and nature, but training is given in all the varied tasks we have done, and it's rewarding to be able to make a contribution. 

“Volunteering is very meaningful to me. It's great to get out on the hill and breathe the fresh air - it's like a piece of the South Downs within the city.”

It’s a great learning experience and the myriad of flora and fauna has already given the volunteers a glimpse of rare wasp spiders. 

Calling all volunteers

We rely on the dedication and hard work of volunteers. The formation of Carden Hill woodland would not have been possible without them and the work they’re currently doing will provide an attractive woodland area that everyone can enjoy.

Nestled with plenty of treasure troves and providing essential habitats for wildlife, it will be great to watch it flourish in years to come. 

Liz, has recently retired and joined the team of volunteers to keep active, do something good for the environment and get outdoors, she said:

“I’m learning to recognise native trees, learning new skills and keeping active. What’s not to like?

“Planting trees helps tackle climate change and creates new habitats for wildlife. But what I like most about the Carden Hill project is that it’s creating a new woodland that Carden residents can enjoy for years to come.”

Working with schools and groups

Alistair and Liz, along with other volunteers from the local community have contributed many hours, planting trees and shrubs, positively enhancing the local landscape. 

In addition, so far, two Year 5 groups from Carden Primary School have joined the planting scheme, as well as the Brighton Conservation Volunteers providing a day’s support and a group of volunteers from Extinction Rebellion.  In the near future, we’re also hoping to involve the City Parks Ranger Volunteers too.

Rick McEwen, a Year 5 Teacher, from Carden Primary School said: “The tree-planting project on Carden Hill was a fantastic opportunity for the year 5 children at Carden Primary to take part in last December.

“Not only did they learn more about trees and the vital role they have to play in combatting climate change, the project was something that was very tangible in terms of how it linked to their community.

“Many of the children live in the flats that overlook the area where the trees were planted and hopefully this instilled them with a sense of pride and will ensure that they continue to respect and promote the importance of the area for years to come”.

Forming friendships as well as landscapes

Councillor McNair said: “I joined because it's not often you get to be part of an enthusiastic team of volunteers planting a new wood.

“It's a project which has brought lots of residents together from across the city, and I'm sure friendships are being formed as much as a new landscape.

“The residents, and especially the children growing up in this corner of Hollingbury, are really lucky to have such a wood and wildlife habitat to explore right on their doorstep.”

What else is planned in for 2022/23?

Phase 3 of the woodland planting is due to take place throughout the winter of 2022/23 when we hope to largely complete the planting element of this project. 

If upon hearing the stories of Alistair, Liz and Councillor McNair, you’re up for the challenge of giving something back to the local community, why not grasp the opportunity and come and join this amazing team of volunteers?

There are a wide variety of roles that can be filled including tree planting, staking and tying; invasive weed reduction; litter picking; scrub clearance, wildflower planting and stock fence construction. Get in touch at Carden Hill - Conservation Volunteer : Community Works (bhcommunityworks.org.uk)

Related news