Agenda item

Rewilding and Tree Planting

To receive a presentation on rewilding and tree planting plans for the borough. 


The forum received a presentation from Ian Russell on rewilding and tree planting schemes in the borough. 


1.            Presentation


The following points were highlighted during the presentation: 


·         The key definition of rewilding is the largescale restoration of ecosystems to the point where nature can take care of itself. 

·         A good example of this is the reintroduction of the beaver into areas where it had been extinct.  Their habit of damning rivers helps to prevent flooding and creates new habitats bringing in other species.  Other examples include wild pigs rooting round in the soil encouraging worms.  Smaller creatures provide food for predators. 

·         Aspirations include reversing the loss of biodiversity, restoring ecosystems, reigniting passions for the natural world, providing opportunities for diversification and revitalisation of local economies, reintegrating nature for the benefit of all and reintroducing key species where it makes sense.  These are part of the London Plan good growth policies. 

·         In 1700 large parts of the borough were forested as part of Enfield Chase.  Only small fragments of this ancient woodland still exist but the Council owns areas of farmland, parks and golf courses in the North West of the borough and some of these areas could be turned back into woodland. 

·         Today much of the farmland is currently bare brown soil – desert like.

·         In Epping Forest rewilding techniques have been used to reintroduce cattle to manage the open parts of the forest.  A forest is not just a close canopy of trees, but also glades and open meadows.   

·         Rivers are key to managing flood risk. The borough has three major water ways, Turkey Brook, Salmons Brook and Pymmes Brook which cross the borough from west to east, feeding into the River Lee.  If the farmland in the north west is not drained appropriately it will create flood risks in Edmonton in the South East.  Natural flood management holds water on the land and prevents flooding.  Straightening parts of rivers, which was often carried out in the past, means that the water flows more quickly and also increases flood risk.  Work is being done in Enfield parks to create wetlands and restore meanders to help soak up water, as well as creating more diverse habitats. 

·         Woodland recreation is also key.  With the help of the GLA, the National Lottery, Thames 21 and the Forestry Commission the Council is planting over 100,000 trees along the London Loop.  Originally it had been hoped to involve the public in the tree planting, but this had not been possible up until now because of the pandemic. 

·         There were multiple benefits of rewilding in terms of public health, increasing biodiversity, reducing flood risk, restoring heritage landscapes, reduced pollution and increasing carbon capture. 

·         The Enfield Chase tree planting project will on average capture 234 tonnes of carbon every year contributing to Enfield’s Climate Change Action Plan targets. 


2.            Questions/Comments


2.1       The trees being planted were very small and would not be able to capture a lot of carbon in their early years but will capture much more later, over the next 25 years.  The figures quoted were the average of a tree’s lifetime. 


2.2       Opportunities for natural regeneration were also being encouraged by managing parks, such as Oakwood and Hillyfields, much less intensively and allowing trees to seed themselves.


2.3       The Council was working closely with local farmers to encourage better land management and more tree planting schemes.  There was a biodiversity crisis which needed addressing.  This could be done by taking areas back to their natural state.  Enfield’s farmland was relatively poor - grade 3.  Before the second world war it would have been pastoral rather than arable land.  Farmers would be able to claim payments for this type of land use but the details have still to be sorted out. 


2.4       It was hoped that they would be able to introduce beavers into the borough.  The details of a possible scheme were being worked out and would be announced soon. 


2.5       A lot of funding is being provided for infrastructure works along the London Loop including gravel paths, safe road crossings and amenity features.  These would be being put in place in June or July this year. 


2.6       If cattle were to be used in parkland areas they would be carefully managed.  The scheme would involve only one animal per hectare to ensure that land did not become compacted and animals would be checked to ensure that they were docile. 


2.7       There were no plans to drive food growing out of the borough, but there were ways of managing land more effectively.  There was a lot of open land in Enfield but a lot of it was not open to the public.  There were other types of farming such as market gardening and agro-forestry which could be  more effective uses of farm land. 


2.8       The plans were to improve Enfield’s heritage landscapes.  Money had been received from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  There was a view that Forty Hall had been badly managed and too many scrub oaks allowed to take root.  The borough had a history of exceptional park land landscapes and a lot of archaeological heritage which was not always appreciated.  The Council were hoping to give the new trees long term protection through appropriate management strategies. Changing subsidy regimes should help ensure that the land can be managed more appropriately than in the past. 


2.9       There did not seem to be a need to designate land for forestry at this time.    


2.10    There was some concern that changing priorities meant that trees planted now could be removed in the future, as had happened in the past. 


2.11    There was less opportunity for Enfield to influence the rewilding along the Lee Valley Corridor as this was owned by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority and Thames Water.  However the new Blue and Green Strategy hoped to encourage greater access to and use of the green spaces of the Lee Valley.  New parks and open spaces were also planned as part of the Meridian Water development. 


2.12    Concern about the removal of mature trees from people’s gardens in the Hadley Wood area. Thirty percent of trees in Enfield were in suburban gardens and many were being removed.  It was felt that these trees should be valued more highly. 


2.13    Along the Salmon’s Brook there were a lot of very mature trees but not many younger trees.  When the old trees died, they were not often replaced.   Salmon’s Brook was being looked at as a key habitat within the urban environment.  This issue would be raised with colleagues. 


2.14    It was felt that there should be more encouragement and information provided to educate local people on the benefits of enabling sustainable features, such as the value of ponds and of allowing gardens to be rewilded.  


2.15    The Council should also allow the grass along verges to grow longer.


2.16    Interpretation boards in parks and open spaces might help in this respect.  Some education work was taking place with Thames 21 officers and in schools. 


2.17    It was suggested that protecting garden trees and tree preservation orders could be a subject for discussion at a future meeting. 


3.            Summing Up by Chair


The chair thanked Ian Russell for his very interesting presentation and acknowledged the benefits of rewilding to the environment and public health.  She looked forward to hearing about the reintroduction of the beaver in Enfield. 

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