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Chippenham to have its own Tiny Forest

17th January 2022 / News archive

Chippenham to have its own Tiny Forest

Updated on Monday 31 January 2022

A second site visit was undertaken by a qualified ecologist on Thursday 20th January, to assess any ecological impact of the proposed site (Site A) which may not have been evident during the initial site visit.

During the second visit, additional badger tracks (no setts were found) and bird foraging/ roosting activity was noted, as well as an entrance to a rabbit burrow.

Following an update to the Preliminary Ecological Assessment, it was recommended that the site be relocated from an area of scrub to an area of unimproved grassland less than 50 metres away (Site B).

Site B had already been ecologically assessed and allocated for a block of woodland planting in the Monkton Park Land Management Plan, which was adopted at the Councils Amenities, Culture and Leisure Committee in March 2021. The relocation, therefore, compliments the existing Management Plan (the woodland block layout will be adapted so that the same total number of trees proposed in the Management Plan will still be planted), without disrupting any valuable habitat.

The site will be fenced against rabbits and deer to protect the saplings whilst they establish.

Map of Tiny Forest site in Monkton Park

 

Tiny forest site in Monkton Park Ariel view

 

Image of Tiny Forest area in Monkton Park

Why do Tiny Forests require ground preparation, and why are they planted densely?

Tiny Forests use the Miyawaki method of propagation. This differs from traditional planting in several aspects. One aspect is the ground preparation method; soil surveys of the area showed that it was a little compacted, which limits root growth. The Miyawaki method creates loose, airy soil up to 1m deep, and optimises the soil nutrients by mixing in organic material (humus) and topping with chopped straw. This gives optimal conditions for roots to thrive and quickly establish connections with beneficial fungi. No chemicals or fertilisers are used in the process.

The other aspect is the high density of the planting. This replicates how trees would grow in natural woodland, and allows them to grow rapidly- around 10 times faster than traditional or planting or natural processes, allowing a forest to grow in 20-30 years, instead of 150-200 years. This has clear benefits not only in the face of a climate crisis but also the ecological emergency; a Tiny Forest can attract up to 500 species of animal and plant in the first 3 years (far higher than the current unimproved grassland in Site B).

For further information, please refer to the following article HERE which gives an excellent summary of the Miyawaki method.

Monday 17 January 2022

Chippenham Town Council is so pleased to be working in partnership with Earthwatch Europe and Siemens Mobility Limited to bring Chippenham its first Tiny Forest in Monkton Park.

A Tiny Forest consists of 600 native trees such as Oak, Lime, Elm, Hawthorn and Hazel which will be densely planted in a tennis court-sized plot of land. A Tiny Forest provides accessible green space and facilitates an outdoor classroom for communities to reconnect with nature. It will also provide a biodiversity hotspot, capable of attracting over 500 animal and plant species within the first 3 years.

As a central and accessible location, the upper riverside meadow area in Monkton Park is in good proximity to local primary schools and residential housing, it balances regular visitor usage with an absence of underground utility constraints and optimises the ecological and environmental benefits of the site.

Site location in Monkton Park

In addition, a Tiny Forest in the proposed location compliments the aims of the Monkton Park Management Plan produced in partnership by Chippenham Town Council and Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, which aims to protect and improve the biodiversity in and around the park. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, Friends of Monkton Park and local councillors were all consulted during the initial phases of site selection.

Chippenham Town Council and Siemens Mobility were invited to work together by Earthwatch as they had both enquired about a Tiny Forest for Chippenham. Funded by Siemens Mobility and planted on land owned by the Council, Earthwatch will lead the project to its fruition.

Sustainability is high on Siemens Mobility’s agenda. Being a major employer in Chippenham for 120 years, with around 900 people today, it was only natural to want to get involved with Tiny Forest. The company is contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development, including through Corporate Citizenship activities and making a visible difference to communities in which they work, such as Chippenham.

Councillor Desna Allen, Leader of Chippenham Town Council, said of the project, “This is a wonderful initiative for our local community to be involved in not only to help support our objectives to lessen our impact of climate change but to create an environment for future generations to enjoy.”

Rob Morris says, “At Siemens Mobility we truly care about our people and planet, and by being involved in the Tiny Forest I’m pleased we can benefit both. We need to act quickly to decarbonise and fight climate change and planting these trees will have a positive impact in this regard. It will also provide a calming community space, easily accessible in Chippenham ― a key hub for our c.900 employees here who all contribute to improving passenger experience for people travelling on the railway.”

Louise Hartley, Tiny Forest Programme Manager at Earthwatch Europe, said:
“Tiny Forest provides rich opportunities for connecting young and old alike with the environment and sustainability.  It’s vital that we give people the knowledge and skills to protect our natural world and inspire them to take positive action.  We are delighted to be working with Siemens Mobility and Chippenham Town Council to bring these inspiring spaces to Monkton Park.”

 

Site preparation

Wiltshire Wildlife Trust were commissioned to carry out a Preliminary Ecological Assessment  of the site to assess the ecological value of the habitats present and to identify any mitigation measures that might be necessary to off-set the impact of the Tiny Forest creation.

The net biodiversity gain of the Tiny Forest is predicted to exceed what is currently present at the Tiny Forest site in Monkton Park. Nevertheless, the Miyawaki Tiny Forest methodology involves excavating the existing soil to improve nutrients and soil density.

Currently, habitats found at the site of the Tiny Forest include tussocky grassland, areas of scrub and rough, ruderal vegetation such as nettles and hogweed. Scrub can be a valuable wildlife habitat and is a successional stage between grassland and woodland. In this case the scrub has developed due lack of management during the last 5 years.

The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust report summarises that, “Chippenham Town Council’s objective is to enable Monkton Park to flourish for the benefit of wildlife and the local community, and the Tiny Forest project is consistent with this aim. There is also a clear commitment to create large areas of additional wildlife habitat in the adjoining park areas’. The Preliminary Ecological Survey and report assessed the existing habitat around the proposed Tiny Forest site; the likelihood of protected species using the site, the ecological constraints and mitigation required to carry out the proposed Tiny Forest plan in an ecologically sensitive manner, and recommendations on suitable management practices based on the findings. The report gives recommendations to ensure minimum disturbance to wildlife whilst the site is prepared and the Tiny Forest is planted”.

 

Planting Day

On Thursday 10 February 2022, depending on Covid-19 restrictions, Chippenham’s Tiny Forest will be planted. If you would like to take part, you will need to book your space via Eventbrite in advance.

Tickets available from Monday 17 January 2022 HERE

 

Maintenance

To maximise each Tiny Forest’s chance of success, a group of local volunteers will become Tree Keepers who take some ownership of their Tiny Forest and its development and help to maintain it for the first few growing seasons.

The group of Tree Keepers for Monkton Park will include representatives from project stakeholders Siemens Mobility, Chippenham Town Council, Friends of Monkton Park and Monkton Park Primary School.

Members of public from the local area are also invited to apply to be a volunteer Tree Keeper. If you would like to know more or to apply for the role, please contact tinyforest@earthwatch.org.uk for more information.

Mark Aitman, who is a Tree Keeper for the Witney Tiny Forest says, “Being a Tree Keeper is a great opportunity to work with other community members, to ensure the success of our forest. Since it was planted in March 2020, we have regularly visited the Tiny Forest to check the saplings, the mulch layer and to remove any litter. We have been able to watch the Tiny Forest grow and develop over time and we often meet up with friends and family in the outdoor classroom area.”

 

How do we create a Tiny Forest?

Site Assessment & Species Selection
Once the location had been proposed, Earthwatch conducted a site visit to ensure the area was appropriate for a Tiny Forest. The site visit looks at nearby infrastructure, site access and utilities. A soil survey was also completed to understand the characteristics of the soil which, alongside data from a regional reference forest, went on to influence our tree species selection.

Design
The design of each Tiny Forest is decided, with input from all partners, early on in the process. The design is centred on an existing mound on the site, and will include an outdoor classroom area, orientated towards the existing footpath network, to make its accessible and welcoming. The project will include enhanced management of the area, maintaining mown access to the Tiny Forest, and a circular pathway around it. A fence will protect the Tiny Forest from accidental damage, and the local rabbit population, in its early years.

Soil Preparation
A key part of the Tiny Forest methodology is the soil preparation before planting. This is to reduce the soil’s compaction, ensure there are enough nutrients for the saplings and to improve the water holding capacity of the soil.
The site will be excavated to a depth of 1 metre, returning this soil to the excavated pit whilst mixing in soil supplements.

 

Citizen Science Monitoring

Following the planting day, we aim to continue the local communities’ engagement with the Tiny Forest. Earthwatch will use their expertise in citizen science to engage local communities/ schools/ businesses to monitor Chippenham’s Tiny Forests’ dynamic nature and quantify the social and environmental benefits.

With the help of the new citizen scientists, five key benefits will be monitored. Specifically looking at how the forests change over time and how they differ per location.

Topics which will be considered include:

  • Thermal comfort: the cooling benefits of the trees
  • Flood management: the forest’s ability to store water
  • Biodiversity: focussing on butterflies, pollinators and soil-dwelling organisms
  • Carbon capture: how much carbon a Tiny Forest sequesters and stores
  • Wellbeing: conducting social surveys with volunteers

Earthwatch has established 34 Tiny Forests across the UK. By 2023, they aim to have built a network of 150 Tiny Forests in the UK. By doing this c. 35,000 people will directly benefit from a Tiny Forest in their local community.