After many delays, Thanet Urban Forest (TUF) has finally planted 64 trees in King George VI Memorial Park, Ramsgate, to complete the Isle of Thanet Trees and Woods Initiative’s (ITTWI) original Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTFC) Round 1 block of 1,260 trees.
The UTCF has been a challenge from its beginning back in 2019, and the community tree planting on Sunday (March 20) wasn’t any different.
Constrained funding has given the initiative additional challenges, as has planting on public open spaces, but when Covid brought the planet to a grinding halt two years ago this week, involving the local community became a challenge too far and safety from covid had to take precedence over tree planting.
Part of TUF’s planting policy is to plant trees tolerant of climate forecasts, as well as increasing the diversity of the urban canopy. King George VI Park was originally identified as a site with low diversity and in need of a succession of new trees.
The park’s tree stock is predominantly mature and veteran maples, which are great at sucking up carbon and attenuating rainwater but there are many other species that hold better ecosystem services.
There is an avenue of mature beech along the western perimeter, however beech isn’t considered a tree that is likely to do well as the climate changes, and it is highly recommended that Hornbeams are planted as an alternative.
There are also some Ash trees in the park, which are subject to Ash die-back. Ash is one of the UK’s most prominent trees with an estimated 125 million, many of which have already died, and it is thought we will lose up to 80% of them, giving even more cause to add diversity to the park and reduce the risk of losing tree canopy.
Thanet council agreed that TUF could plant on the northern quadrant of the park, also known as Sir Moses Montefiore former vege plot. It is rumoured that a number of tunnels criss-cross the park, leading down to the shore which were reportedly dug by Napoleonic soldiers, but have since been filled in.
Level 2 Engineering students from Canterbury College visited the park a few days before and spent the day preparing by planting, unloading the tree delivery and working with Peter Hasted to mark out where trees were going to be planted for Saturday’s public event.
Project lead Peter Hasted said: “TUF is very proud to have encouraged, inspired and assisted Thanet council to appoint its very own tree planting officer. TUF attended and supported the council’s very first community tree planting at Jacky Bakers on Wednesday and we hope to work with TDC on future plantings.
“However, TUF are also considering sites outside of council controlled public open spaces; so if you have a space that maybe good for planting a minimum of 10 trees, 3-5 meters tall, please send your enquiry to firstname.lastname@example.org.”
TUF’s establishment programme has been 96% successful over the past two years.
Peter said: “We are very proud to have been so successful and wouldn’t want to tarnish our reputation by allowing these trees to die. Due to the low rainfall this month, and the forecast heatwave which we are currently enjoying, we have already initiated our watering schedule and if you are lucky enough, you may see us in the park nurturing your trees every week until September (weather permitting).”
Matthew Woodcock MBE, of the Forestry Commission, said: “It was fantastic to join the local people and the Thanet Urban Forest team in planting trees at King George VI Memorial Park yesterday.
“It was so great to see the enthusiasm of those both planting and regular users of the park. We are very pleased that the Urban Tree Challenge Fund has been able to help.
“TUF has done so much to raise interest, build enthusiasm and deliver action in the form of planting more trees across Thanet. These increase the scale, diversity and resilience of Thanet’s ‘treescape’ which delivers so much to local people and the local environment.
“The project is an exemplar of what can be achieved and I look forward to hearing about the next steps. Well done to everyone involved.”
Luke Evans, who was one of the main founders of the original tree initiative, also attended the planting event.
He said: “Back in January 2020 the world was a different place. We as a global community have endured so much in what will probably go in history as the worst two years for a generation.
“However, this was a landmark time for Thanet because in January 2020 the first ITTWI tree went in the ground along with 99 others at Dane Park, Margate. The significance of that first ITTWI tree at the time was underestimated because it became more than just a tree!
“It became a beacon of hope in our fight against climate change. It became the catalyst for communities all across Thanet to come together to implement positive change even throughout the dark days of the pandemic.
“Finally, it marked a change in Thanet’s history from being a region of felling rather than planting trees! Community groups, businesses, residents and schools have all joined in the fight against climate change in Thanet now and I can confidently say that I feel Thanet’s tree canopy coverage is on the up for the first time in its history.
“I had a dream to plant some trees but never in my wildest imagination did I think ITTWI would be so transformational for the landscape of Thanet for the mindset of our residents.
“Loads of people played significant roles in this project such as Ash Ashbee at the very beginning, RSP for their continued support, Karen Mckenzie for steadying the ship after I stepped aside, Frances Tophill for being ITTWI patron and all the amazing volunteers that helped plan, organise and plant the trees.
“However, Peter Hasted deserves special recognition for what he has achieved. Peter has literally worked day and night to get this project delivered and for that I am eternally grateful to him.”
Patron and Gardeners World presenter Frances Tophill added: “There is little more rewarding than spending a morning by the sea, in a beautiful park, with lovely people, planting a tree. The hugely varied species we planted will hopefully be there for centuries to come, making a hugely positive impact on the biodiversity of Thanet and east Kent.
“All kinds of people came to join in, from people planting trees for the memory of lost loved ones, to people bringing young children and planting trees together to regenerate the habitat and create memories that will last a life time, along with the forests we all planted.”