50 000 trees planted despite COVID, heavy rain and snow

The Thames21 tree-planting team planted their fifty-thousandth tree this week.

Enfield Council are carrying out the Enfield Chase Restoration Project in partnership with Thames21 to create over 100 acres of publicly accessible woodland in the north-west of the borough.  This new nature area helps to tackle climate change and reduces flood risk downstream, in the east of the borough, as well as creating improved places for people and wildlife to enjoy.   Over the past five months the Thames21 team have braved rain, wind and snow to meet the target of 50,000 trees planted across the Salmons and Turkey Brook catchments.

This target was only achieved with the help of hundreds of passionate and hardworking volunteers in the first couple of months of planting. As the second wave of COVID-19 hit, followed by increased restrictions, the decision was taken to pause volunteering.

The core tree-planting team continued working, overseen by Thames21 Woodland Creation officer Nik Cain with strict COVID-19 safety precautions in place. Losing the help of volunteers was just one of many obstacles that the planting team faced this season.

The team responded to the COVID-19 regulatory changes covering volunteering last year by reducing the number of people who could attend planting events at any one time, instead adding additional mid-week opportunities.

Prolonged rainfall in the autumn led to saturated, muddy ground adding extra weight of wet sticky mud to treeplanters’ legs as they worked. Snow in January provided good conditions to work in, despite the cold, and was welcomed by all.

The weather wasn’t the only challenge. Local Muntjac deer presented another obstacle, chewing zip ties and pushing tree-guards over to munch at the newly planted trees.

Then after Christmas, the nursery supplying the trees had to close for a week due to a Covid outbreak. This delayed orders and planting, demonstrating the widespread impacts of the pandemic.

Tree planting rate increased dramatically once action moved to a new area with a deer fence at the start of February, removing the need to place individual protective tubes over each tree.

Councillor Nesil Caliskan, Leader of Enfield Council, said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Thames 21 on the Restoration of Enfield Chase Tree Planting project. I’d like to say a big thank you to every volunteer that has braved the elements to help us plant trees in the borough, to reach the magnificent milestone of 50,000. The trees will help to improve the local environment and can slash flood risk and improve water quality.”

Both Enfield Council and Thames21 have learnt a huge amount throughout this planting season. Later this spring we hope to invite volunteers back into the field so the necessary tree maintenance can be carried out.  Then preparations will start for the next cycle of tree planting: a further 50,000 trees will be planted, starting in November 2021.

Follow the Friends of Enfield Chase Facebook Group for progress updates.