Row of cows at farm in Shropshire

Down by the riverside: the Woodlands for Water initiative

11/10/21Down by the riverside: the Woodlands for Water initiative

In September 2021, the UK government announced that it was launching an exciting new project that aims to revitalise and purify the country’s watercourses. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and the Forestry Commission have instigated Woodlands for Water, which will mean extensive woodlands will be planted along England’s riverbanks. The aim is to improve water quality, manage flood risk and boost biodiversity. This is exciting news for farmers and landowners, who may benefit in a multitude of ways from the new initiative.    

Improved quality of life

The Woodlands for Water project will see over 3,000 hectares of new woodland planted on the banks of rivers and watercourses, and across their catchment areas and basins. It has the backing of the UK’s leading environmental organisations. There are a number of positive impacts of planting trees in the vicinity of rivers, or letting them grow there naturally. These include improved water quality (as a result of blocking the runoff of pollutants into rivers), managing flood risks (by slowing down the flow of water), boosting biodiversity (by creating new habitat environments) and making the rivers more climate resilient (by providing shade, to cool water temperatures). The aim of this initiative is that by planting trees, the nature corridors will contribute to a natural network of habitats across the country, as part of the government’s wider plans to expand, improve and connect these areas across towns, cities and the countryside.

Grants for planting

The UK government is committed to trebling tree-planting rates, in part to address climate change challenges in beneficial, creative ways. Woodlands for Water has a number of supporters involved in the project, including the Forestry Commission, which sees it as a key element of its wider England Trees Action Plan. The project has the target of creating 3,150 hectares of trees, in six river catchment areas by March 2025. They will be located across England, from Devon to Cumbria. By way of supporting farmers and landowners to create these woodlands, funding can be applied for through the England Woodland Creation Offer grant. This will provide financial incentives for landowners to plant and manage the trees, especially those located along rivers and watercourses. The Riverscapes Partnership brings together leading national organisations, who seek to revive our rivers, restore natural habitats and increase resilience to droughts and flooding.

Going with the flow

Supported by Defra, the project will be carried out by the ‘Riverscapes’ Partnership, which comprises experts from the Rivers Trust, National Trust, Woodland Trust and Beaver Trust, which will be on hand to provide assistance and advice in the catchment areas across England. Planting trees near rivers is clearly beneficial for all concerned. Due to the erosion of riverbanks, many trees that have grown near rivers over the decades have ended up becoming debris, as the banks are weakened, then are undermined and collapse. The debris, often substantial in size, can end up in the river or waterway itself, where they can cause serious obstructions for river users and river flow. Organised tree planting can help riverbanks, by adding stability, and will have significant benefits for people and wildlife in the vicinity, from natural flood management, to create exciting riverside locations for people to enjoy.

The nearest of the six catchment areas to us are the River Teme in Shropshire and Worcestershire and the Rivers Wye and Usk in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. If you would like to learn more about how this initiative can help you and how to apply for funding, then please get in touch and talk to one of our land management consultants today.

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