Community Tree Nurseries

Ribble Rivers Trust’s community tree nurseries are helping us to grow our own trees. The aim is to help us become less reliant on other growers and imported seeds. However, there is a significant secondary benefit to this activity, as we are enabling those who can’t plant trees on site to help and make a difference. Albeit in a less physically demanding way. This project was made possible thanks to initial funding from the Heal project.

This approach involves two main activities. The first activity is the seed collection, and the second is the tree nurseries themselves.

What are community tree nurseries?

Alder seeds collected for the community tree nurseries

Our team run health walks which, in autumn, incorporate tree seed collection. These walks offer a gentle introduction to the outdoors to those who suffer physical and mental health problems. Many of those on the walks are signposted to us by GPs as part of our work with local NHS Trusts.

All the seeds that we collect are from a local ancient woodland, so they are all native species. Plus, because they are from local stock, they are already adapted to our local climate and soils. This is particularly important, especially as we see our climate change. You can discover more about tree provenance on the Woodland Trust’s ‘Tree Provenance in a Changing Climate’ report.

Our team and our volunteers sow all the seeds we collect in our community tree nurseries where our fantastic volunteers look after these little saplings. Once they are big enough we’ll plant then in our new woodlands. Other than the planting, these volunteers are in charge of weeding, watering, and general maintenance.

Over 4,500 trees have been grown after one year of running our tree nurseries. We hope to grow a further 12,000 next year. In fact, over 25,000 seeds have been collected so far. And there is still time to collect more. There will also be different species available to collect seeds from in spring and summer next year.

Do you have any more plans for the future?

Through our three existing community tree nurseries, we are on track to have 4,000 native tree saplings growing by the end of our first growing season. However, many of those trees will not be large enough to plant into new woodlands until the end of the 2023. Unfortunately, we do not currently have sufficient funding for that growing season.

Securing further funding would enable us to enable us to triple our tree production with the 2023/24 financial year and growing season to 12,000.

We hope we can maintain and expand the programme by creating new nurseries, particularly in the Preston area. This area is where many residents already benefit from our health walks. Another group we would like to target is primary school pupils. Ribble Rivers Trust already deliver educational activities to thousands of pupils each year, so we would love to integrate this into their sessions.

So far the community tree nurseries have proved to be a successful and adaptable volunteer activity. By adapting sessions to suit differing levels of dexterity, attention spans, physical strength, sensory needs, and more, we can provide a fun, fulfilling, and valuable activity for all.

One of our community tree nurseries