THE LANDSCAPING SOLUTIONS BLOG


Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.

​GOVERNMENT’S TREE PLANTING FUND ANNOUNCED

Tree Planting

The Woodland Creation Grant, a £13 million tree planting fund, was announced by the Government last week in an attempt to significantly increase planting rates.

According to recent figures from the Forestry Commission only 582 hectares of trees were planted last year, resulting in the lowest numbers planted since records began in 1976.

Unfortunately the trend has continued well into 2017 as well, with only 63,000 trees planted between January and March of this year.

The new funds have been made available through the Woodland Creation Grant, part of the Countryside Stewardship scheme which is a Government initiative set up to tackle these alarming statistics and provide financial incentives to local authorities, farmers and land owners throughout England.

As part of this scheme the grants are intended to help successful applicants plant more than 3 million trees, creating an estimated 1,900 hectares of new woodland. This goes some of the way towards reaching the Government’s primary objective of planting 11 million trees overall in rural areas and a further one million trees in our towns and cities.

There is, however, still a long way to go if the Government are to reach that quota by their original deadline of 2020.

Once application forms for the Woodland Creation Grant become available in September, those eligible will be able to apply for up to £6,800 per hectare for tree planting, with final submissions due in January 2018.

Forestry Minister Thérèse Coffey said: "Today’s announcement demonstrates the government’s ongoing commitment to the forestry sector and to biodiversity, which afforestation delivers. I hope to see as many applications as possible so this important industry can continue to thrive."

We often cover environmental issues here on the Landscaping Solutions blog as it’s a subject matter close to our hearts. Statistics like last years Forestry Commission figures really strike a chord with us and overall we feel the Woodland Creation Grant is a positive move in the right direction.

For the scheme to prove successful the environmental impact needs to be at the heart of how the planting is implemented. The additional woodland will no doubt give the timber industry a much needed boost but woodland creation is not always environmentally sound.

There is no denying that countless studies have shown trees reduce pollution, regulate temperatures, mitigate flood risk and provide a habitat for wildlife to thrive. However, For woodland creation to prove successful in the long term a number of factors have to be carefully considered. For example, what kind of woodland is being created, where is it being created and why is it being created?

To meet the increasing demand of timber for the construction industry, millions of pine trees have been planted over the past 100 years in our uplands. With little consideration for the surrounding wildlife, biodiversity has in fact been drastically reduced in these areas. In short it’s simply not a matter of just planting lots of trees and hoping for the best.

Further information regarding the Woodland Creation Grant and the Countryside Stewardship scheme can be found on the Government website.


FROM NEW YORK TO LONDON - THE CAMDEN HIGH LINE

Landscaping Solutions - Camden High Line

A recent bid to transform an old section of raised railway track in North London into an elevated garden could provide London with its answer to New York City’s famous ‘High Line’, a public park built on a historic freight railway elevated above the streets of Manhattan.

Proposed by local business development agency Camden Town Unlimited (a non-profit organisation), this North London counterpart would see a 0.8km long and 18m wide disused elevated railway track near Camden Town station converted in to a public green space and commuting route.

Eight meters off the ground, the public garden would provide a direct link between Camden and King's Cross, cutting commuting time between the two to only ten minutes for pedestrians and even less for cyclists.

Originally built as part of the North London Railway, the abandoned track crosses eight roads and seven bridges running all the way from Kentish Town Road to King’s Cross. Once completed the proposed Camden High Line would feature a garden walkway and a landscaped park and would be completely free to use making it accessible to everyone.

With a firm belief that the completed project would positively impact the local residents and surrounding neighbourhoods, a number of campaigners are urging local residents and Londoners alike to pledge their support for the project through the campaigns crowdfunding page.

If successful, it is hoped money raised through the the crowdfunding campaign would take the project to the next stage which would include site appraisals and surveys as well as help to pay for exhibitions, events and workshops to further promote the project.

Landscaping Solutions company director Ben West feels Camden would benefit greatly from a project of this nature; "Having visited the New York High Line myself last year, its difficult to deny the benefits of a project such as this. If London can achieve the same level of success as the New York scheme by repurposing such a prominent piece of the urban landscape then its definitely something worth pursuing”. said Ben.

For further information regarding the Camden High Line or to support the project through its crowdfunding page click here.

BATTLING URBAN AIR POLLUTION: THE HUMBLE HEDGE

The Humble Hedge

We know that maintaining a garden hedge can sometimes feel like a never ending battle, it’s one of the reasons we offer a long-term garden maintenance service.

However, a paper published recently in the journal ‘Atmospheric Environment’ suggests it might be worth the battle after all.

Your unassuming garden hedge could in fact be the unsung hero of your garden, trapping toxins and protecting you from harmful pollutants.

Lead author of the paper Prof Prashant Kumar and his international team of researchers have found that the majority of hedges serve as a highly effective natural filter for toxic air pollution, due in part to their short size and tight-knit foliage.

The study has found that while tall trees are good at absorbing pollution in wide open areas, hedges are in fact far more effective at trapping harmful pollutants at exhaust pipe level in our towns and cities.

The research comes after the level of toxic air in London hit an all time high back in January of this year. Only six days into the New Year and a number of boroughs within London had exceeded their EU pollution limit for the entire twelve months. Alarmingly air pollution in these areas hit such high densities that primary schools were forced to restrict the time children spent outdoors. These events culminated in the city being placed on the highest black alert for pollution.

Understandably Professor Prashant Kumar, who led the study, is now urging local councils to consider populating our busy pavements and streets with hedges. He advises that wherever the pavements are wide enough to accommodate, councils should try to plant low hedges between pedestrians and the main road allowing damaging particles to be absorbed before they disperse into the air.

Its interesting to note that previous studies have also gone along way to back up these findings. A study carried out in Guildford, Surrey found that planting hedges along a busy main road cut toxic fumes by more than a third.

Whilst Prof. Kumar’s study focused on hedges it is important to remember that that trees also play a vital part in battling pollution in our ever expanding towns and cities. The paper actually suggests many more trees should also be planted as part of a well planned, targeted planting campaign.

Professor Prashant Kumar admits that there are no hard and fast rules about the best planting for any given area rather that this will depend upon local conditions and circumstances, with each planting campaign tailored to meet a particular areas requirements.

His team are currently carrying out further tests to ascertain which species of hedge proves to be the most pollution absorbent. For the time being he advices authorities should plant hedges with the greatest leaf surface area.

As subject matter close to our hearts, we’ve covered a number of environmental issues over the past months. If you have found this article interesting you may also enjoy some of our previous articles - Urban Forests And Why We Need Them, Bees In Crisis and Front Gardens On The Decline.

HUNDREDS OF PUBLIC PARKS SET TO CLOSE

Park Closures

A recent report by the Association of Play Industries has revealed how local authorities nationwide, have slowly been closing children’s playgrounds and parks at an alarming rate.

Extensive research carried out as part of the API report shows that between 2014 and 2016 local authorities across England closed 214 children’s playgrounds and public parks, depriving local communities of access to these vital green spaces in the process.

When questioned about the park closures a number of the local authorities involved admitted that there are in fact another 234 more parks and playgrounds scheduled for closure.

It is no secret that in recent years, there has been a series of spending cuts to play areas and public spaces around the UK but these latest figures highlight just how serious the situation really is.

Childhood obesity and wellbeing have been high on the Government’s agenda for sometime now yet the report revealed that the majority of the recent playground closures were as a direct result of a 37% cut in Government funding to local authorities.

The Chairman of the Association of Play Industries Mark Hardy had this to say “With increasing childhood obesity and the health benefits of activity and play well known, now is not the time for community playgrounds to be closing. This action goes against the Government’s clear intention to get children more active and needs to be stopped as quickly as possible”.

The loss of so many playgrounds across the country is undoubtedly a travesty and a number of organised protests have already taken place but with so many parks already closed is it too late to reverse the damage?

According to the same report approximately £100 million of investment could not only reverse the closures but also increase the number of playgrounds available to children across the country.

However, with the recent cuts as a clear indication, the funding is obviously not going to be coming from the government. Local authorities will have to continue to make difficult decisions about which parks and playgrounds are to be closed, unless they look towards organisations like the Big Lottery to meet the investment requirements.

As adults it is easy to become complacent about the importance of our connection with nature and quickly lose touch with it, we covered this topic in more detail in one of our recent articles "Losing Touch With Nature" a subject matter all of us at Landscaping Solutions are very passionate about.

It is heart breaking to think that unless something can be done we are gradually going to witness playgrounds and green spaces up and down the country disappearing from our urban landscape and while campaigners battle tirelessly to defend our parks and playgrounds, the harsh reality is that for now the future of Englands parks is unknown.

For further information or to read the The full report 'Nowhere to play' visit the API website.

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