Eighteen months ago Thanet teacher Luke Evans had a vision for Thanet: greener open spaces, increased bio-diversity and more trees.
He gained the help of Colourful Margate, Thanet Community Forest School, Sunken Garden Society, local councillors and Thanet District Council and then applied for a Forestry Commission Urban Tree Challenge grant for £500,000, little believing he would get it.
But the bid was successful and after recruiting Peter Hasted, from the SGS, the Isle of Thanet Trees and Woods Initiative (ITTWI), was born on January 11, 2020.
The Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF) awards payments once the work is done and money has already been spent on planting. But ITTWI had a problem. How to buy the trees and all the kit to start with? Thanet Community Forest School could subsidise some of it but not all.
Grants and donations were needed to bridge the gap. Manston Airport owners RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) agreed to help fund the buying of trees for Thanet. They initially donated £20,000, with the promise of more money later.
The first tree was planted in Dane Park with the help of volunteers and then 99 more were planted.
The next phase of planting was 286 trees in one day at Dane Valley Green, with work undertaken by Peter and more than 300 volunteers from the community.
Next came a further 362 trees at the Thanet Community Forest School and 6 trees at the Sunken Garden in Westgate.
In Spring and Summer 2020 the community out and about again, in a covid-secure manner, watering the trees with the help of Quex Estates, which helped out with a water tanker for Dane Valley Green and Dane Park.
The new planting projects for Autumn/Winter 2020/21 were disrupted by the latest round of covid restrictions and volunteers were no longer allowed to help. However, since then, Peter and a small team including Tree Warden for Broadstairs & St Peters Karen McKenzie, have managed to plant 363 more trees. Tivoli and Hartsdown Park in Margate now has 180 new trees, there are another 50 at Westover Gardens and 50 at George V Avenue. In total, by the end of just over its first year, Thanet has benefitted from the planting of 1192 new trees with 68 trees for the Urban Tree Challenge Fund to follow.
ITTWI continues to negotiate with many organisations to continue ‘planting trees for our future’.
A further donation of £15,000 has been received from RSP, towards the payment for more trees, with the promise of more in the future. Further grants, sponsors and donations will continue to be vital for the project to continue its life beyond the end of the initial grant from the Forestry Commission. The aim is to create and stimulate interest from people of all ages and encourage them to become “champions of trees and wildlife” throughout Thanet.
With a new Board focused on training, education and employment, it is hoped that primary and secondary schools will get involved so that future generations will be keen to appreciate, possibly even own and maintain, the trees in their area.
Planting from seed is one way of getting youngsters to appreciate how things grow and mature.
If you or your school would be interested in any aspects of the seed growing and/or tree planting projects, would like to donate, or if you are a local company that can see the benefit of linking to ITTWI please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find ITTWI on FaceBook @Isle of Thanet Trees & Woods Initiative.