Woodlands For Water – New Woodland Planting in the Upper Thames Tributaries
In early February, the NFU (National Farmers’ Union) in conjunction with Nicholsons delivered a series of presentations looking at woodland planting to counteract water quality and flooding concerns. Across England there are significant targets to reduce flood risk and improve the water quality of our rivers, and new and existing woodlands have a role to play in making this happen.
The delivery comes in part from the new Countryside Stewardship grants, which specifically focus woodland management and planting to help achieve these outcomes. In lowland England, new woodlands are the main focus to deliver these outcomes, but whilst the science is understood, the practice of implementation is another matter. Woodlands can grow in pretty much most places, so it requires a co-ordinated approach to make sure that we get it right first time. A new woodland in the wrong place could exacerbate local flooding issues, impact important wetland wildlife, or just miss the mark and not capture soil run off like it could.
To drive momentum forward, the NFU with Nicholsons set up a meeting to try and place some momentum specifically into the Ock catchment. Forming part of the Upper Thames tributaries in Oxfordshire, the Ock is known for the flooding problems it has caused to the town of Abingdon, and perhaps less well known for the moderate to poor quality of some of its tributaries.
The focus of the meeting was to garner interest from landowners within the catchment and clarity as to what new woodlands could deliver. Supported by presentations from the Environment Agency, the RSPB, Nicholsons and the Forestry Commission, there was a clear message as to the where the principle water quality issues needed to be tackled, the existing species and habitats that needed to be protected, the grants that are available, and the broader business opportunities from new woodlands.
There is a significant opportunity for both small and large strategically placed woodlands to help deliver the required changes. The meeting was closed with a clear impression that the a conversation had begun, a targeted approach had merit, and that the people to get support and advice from were no more than a ‘phone call away. A follow up meeting is being arranged to look at existing woodland site in the Ock catchment this summer.