UK’s first ‘Tiny Forest’ to be planted to help climate and nature

The UK is to get its first “Tiny Forest” in a plot the size of a tennis court to deliver benefits to urban communities and wildlife.

Some 600 native trees from oaks, birches and elder to dogwood, crab apple and blackthorn will be planted in Witney, Oxfordshire, in a small, fast-growing and dense forest that backers say mimics native woodland.

Environmental charity Earthwatch Europe and Witney Town Council staff and councillors are planting the wood with the help of local volunteers to tackle some of the issues facing urban areas, such as wildlife loss, floods and heatwaves.

This kind of woodland is designed to fit into a small area – around 200 square metres or roughly the size of a tennis court – to make it suitable for urban areas which are short on space.

Tiny Forests can store carbon in trees and soak up water to reduce local flooding, attract a range of wildlife, reduce dust and improve air quality, cut noise pollution and help with urban temperatures, their backers say.

After the first pilot forest, Earthwatch will be planting a second plot with Oxford City Council in Oxford and hopes to team up with other sponsors and landowners to plant hundreds of the miniature woodlands across the UK.

Volunteers have helped create Tiny Forests in the Netherlands (IVN Natuureducatie/PA)
Volunteers have helped create Tiny Forests in the Netherlands (IVN Natuureducatie/PA)

They are based on a forest management methodology developed in the 1970s by Japanese botanist Dr Akira Miyawaki and reinvigorated by Indian engineer and entrepreneur Shubhendu Sharma in the 2010s.

Earthwatch is rolling out the scheme with the support of IVN Nature Education, a Dutch organisation that has planted nearly 100 Tiny Forests in the Netherlands.

Victor Beumer, senior research lead at Earthwatch Europe, said: “We are excited to be planting a Tiny Forest, the first of its kind in the UK, in partnership with Witney Town Council.

“At a time when it seems impossible to overcome the enormous challenge of the climate and ecological crisis, Tiny Forests offer a collaborative natural solution with far-reaching benefits.

“We hope to inspire individuals, businesses and government to take environmental action, by supporting a Tiny Forest in their local area.”

Witney town councillor Vicky Gwatkin said: “The global environmental crisis focuses the mind but also provides a tremendous opportunity to think outside the box, giving us the confidence to experiment and try new things.

“Tiny Forests demonstrate that, far from being a sacrifice, the shift to ‘green’ can actually provide a range of other community benefits.”