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From the blog

Peterborough’s first ‘mini-forest’ creates wildlife haven at Neve Valley Community Centre

by Libby Polkey

Last December, our volunteers planted 700 trees at Nene Valley Community Centre. 20 native tree species were chosen, creating a colourful and biodiverse mini forest. In April, the PECT team went back to the site for a check-up visit. We planted a few extra trees and put natural, plastic-free shelters on all the trees. The shelters are important for the trees’ survival, as they protect them from foraging animals like rabbits and deer. They also create the ideal microclimate, which improves the trees’ growth.

The mini forest area is part of our Forests For Peterborough project, where we aim to plant 230,000 trees across Peterborough city by 2030. As the world becomes increasingly urbanised, we need innovative solutions to bring nature back into our lives, whilst tackling environmental issues like climate change and biodiversity loss. Surveys show that 74% of children spend less than 60 minutes outside each day. This is especially the case for poorer children living in urbanised environments, who have very little access to nature.

If we want our children to develop a connection with nature, we need to bring more wild spaces into our cities and suburbs. Mini forests are a great way to achieve this, as they can attract 500 species of animals and plants into an area the size of a small tennis court. They also provide an important resource for insects, birds, and small mammals, and help to mitigate the carbon footprint of our cities.

The mini forest at Nene Valley Community Centre will help to link up wild spaces with more urbanised areas of the city. The community centre backs onto a nature reserve, which is rich in biodiversity. Planting a mini forest nearby creates an additional resource for wildlife, which in turn, increases the resiliency of the nature reserve.

Nene Valley community Centre planting trees

Mini forest plantations are based on a tree planting method dubbed ‘the Miyawaki method’. It’s named after Dr Akira Miyawaki, the Japanese botanist who created this method in the 1970s.

Scientists have studied the benefits of mini forests, compared to traditional forest plantations. They found that mini forests grow 5 times faster, absorb 30 times more carbon, and are much better at reducing noise pollution than traditional forests. They also process 30,000 litres of rainfall each year, which helps to mitigate flooding risks. UK’s first-ever Tiny Forest seeks to deliver big benefits for people and the environment (earthwatch.org.uk)

Urban mini forests can grow in just 20-30 years. Because trees are planted closely together, it means that the trees grow upwards rather than sideways, which makes the plantation denser and easier to maintain. These mini forests help to recover areas of degraded habitat much quicker than a traditional forest. As climate change and biodiversity loss occur at an alarming rate, we urgently need robust solutions to these problems, which have a quick and lasting impact.

Nene valley Community Centre trees

Our green spaces are not an idealistic luxury. They are integral to our health, and the health of our communities. Caring for the local environment increases community pride and gives volunteers a sense of accomplishment. Spending time in nature improves community cohesion, increases workplace productivity, promotes environmentally responsible behaviour, and reduces crime (source: RSPB study). There is also a wealth of research that proves the effectiveness of nature on our health and wellbeing. As the Forests For Peterborough project expands, we hope to create lots more mini forests and woodland areas for the local community to enjoy.