As the nation celebrates its trees a South Cumbrian mission to reintroduce threatened species has pledged to plant upwards of 4,600 rare aspens.
With National Tree week running from November 28 to December 6, the Back on our Map (BOOM) project plans to start work with inmates at HMP Haverigg Prison to establish sapling growing nurseries and planting areas.
BOOM’s aspen lead, Ellie Kent, said as much of the project’s community work had been postponed by Covid, the prison’s input had been invaluable and a lot of hard work had gone on behind the scenes to prepare a nature garden for aspen and other native species.
She explained: “While the Tree Council’s big national week of activities has been curtailed this year, thanks to National Lottery players, BOOM’s far-reaching four-year introduction programme for 10 threatened species continues.”
Led by University of Cumbria, with Morecambe Bay Partnership spearheading community involvement, the aim is to roll out pioneering actions encouraging people to reconnect with nature across South Cumbria.
Aspen are crucial as no other British tree supports more biodiversity, said Ms Kent. Once common across Cumbria, land use changes and increased grazing have left only a few isolated strands.
She added: “We are determined to plant as many as possible in key areas. Their extensive root systems mean they bind soil together, slowing water and reducing flooding.”
Miss Kent explained: “The idea is that inmates will plant within the nurseries they have successfully established inside the boundary fences and prepare a second aspen area on the prison approaches for local schoolchildren to work on next year.
“We have been doing a lot of work to raise awareness about the importance of trees, especially aspen, and have activities planned at Brantwood, in Coniston, as soon as we are out of lockdown and restrictions.
“We have started our extensive planting programme but have a long way to go before hitting our target of least 4,600.
“Populus tremula rarely produce seed, hence seedlings have to be cultivated from root cuttings and transplanted across BOOM’s South Cumbrian range.
“We are particularly grateful to HMP Haverigg as the saplings are off limits to deer - who like to nibble them – and have contributed to the serious decline.”
The prison’s community outreach manager, John McInally, said working with BOOM had brought many benefits.
He added: “The project has meant our residents are able to make an invaluable contribution to native tree cultivation and improving wildlife across the area.”
BOOM would like to hear from anyone who has suitable land for establishing aspen or would like to volunteer to help with planting.