New leaf of life for campaign as it sets big target of 100,000 trees

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A major campaign launches today to plant over 100,000 trees across the South Downs and bring a welcome boost for nature.

Following a tremendous public response to the initial 2019/2020 appeal, “Trees for the Downs” has gone from strength to strength and will now look to plant tens of thousands more trees than originally planned.

The campaign has smashed its initial target of raising £61,500 – raising a staggering £175,000 in just 18 months after a flurry of large and small donations.

Now the South Downs National Park Trust has set its sights on raising a total of £260,000 to be able to plant 100,000 trees across Hampshire and Sussex.

The trees, a mixture of iconic species including black poplar, oak, field maple and disease-resistant elms, will be planted in community spaces and along roads and popular walking routes.

The charity appeal launched in autumn 2019 to restore trees that have been lost over the past few decades, including those to Ash Dieback and Dutch Elm Disease.

As well as scores of public donations, the campaign has received backing from a range of regional organisations and businesses, including Aspinal of London, Boltini Trust, Chalk Cliff Trust, Friends of the South Downs, Jude’s, Nyetimber, South East Water and the Swire Charitable Trust.

Julie Fawcett, Chair of the South Downs National Park Trust, the official charity for the National Park, said: “The response to Trees for the Downs has been overwhelming and far exceeded our expectations. I think it shows how much we love our trees!

“I’d like to thank each and every person, community group and business that has donated to this inspiring campaign – every penny counts and every tree planted will make a difference. Trees are just incredible for the environment – they provide a home to so much wildlife, provide oxygen, improve the soil, help fight climate change and, last but not least, are really beautiful to look at! Unfortunately, many wonderful trees have been lost from the landscape due to pests and diseases and that’s why we want to restore them.

“Trees for the Downs also goes hand in hand with the National Park’s nature recovery drive – helping wildlife to flourish once again in our countryside, villages, towns and cities.

“We’ve significantly upped our target and would like to raise about another £85,000 to be able to plant a total of 100,000 trees for the campaign.”

Some 10,000 of the 100,000 trees are already in the ground, with planting taking place last winter at more than a dozen sites across Hampshire, West and East Sussex. Farmers, landowners and community groups applied for funding for the trees from the Trust.

Almost 4,000 trees were planted in the Adur and Worthing area, with 2,000 trees at Lancing Ring, 1,300 trees planted at Sheepcombe Hanger in Findon Valley and around 650 trees now in the ground at Gallops in Findon Valley.

Peter Whish, Arboricultural Inspector for Adur and Worthing Councils, said: “Thanks to the Trees for the Downs we have been able to quickly begin the restoration of our public open spaces on the South Downs which have lost significant trees to Ash Dieback.

“Replanting with a good diversity of trees will help build resilience into these precious landscapes for the future.”

Supporters spoke of their admiration for the campaign and urged others to get on board.

Chow Mezger, Managing Director of Jude’s ice-cream, said: “At Jude’s we’re lucky enough to be based in the beautiful South Downs where we experience the wonder of our planet every day. As Britain’s first Carbon Negative ice cream company we’re passionate about our environment and Trees for the Downs give us the opportunity to support a wonderful project right on our doorstep!”

Richard Dyer, South East Water’s Biodiversity Manager, said: “The response to this campaign has been tremendous and highlights just how much people value our landscapes and the life they harbour.

“Not only do trees boost an area’s biodiversity and soil health, but they also improve water quality as well as create greater resilience against drought and flooding.

“Many don’t realise that by keeping water clean at its source means we have to do less when treating it to make it safe to drink, reducing our carbon footprint and keeping water bills low.”

Eric Heerema, Owner and CEO of Nyetimber, said: “For over 30 years, Nyetimber has had a single aim: to make the finest English Sparkling Wine, one to rival the very best in the world. The South Downs play an essential role in the vitality and quality of our vineyards, as well as, providing land for wildlife, a national park for people to enjoy and an area for local communities to thrive. It is important to us that we preserve and enhance this environment for generations to come. Therefore, Nyetimber is delighted to support the ‘Trees for the Downs’ initiative and we commit to planting one tree for every purchase of our limited-edition Classic Cuvee bottle available from June.”

The Trust hopes to plant the trees in phases over the next four years, until 2025, and applications are now open for future round of planting. Those interested can email grants@southdowns.gov.uk  for more details.

Applications are welcome from landowners, farmers, parish and town councils, schools and community groups, including those within the National Park and those near the National Park boundary.

To donate to Trees for the Downs, see www.southdownstrust.org.uk/trees-for-the-downs/