How to plant trees in Bristol

Plant a tree in Bristol, photo by Liam O'Reilly

From planting a tree in your garden to volunteering to reforest the city, Tom Stevens suggests 7 ways to help plant trees to make Bristol the greenest city in the UK.


Turning Bristol into a forest city

To protect its urban environment and set an example for the world, Bristol could become a pioneering forest city. 

The way Britain thinks of its cities is changing. People have begun to favour merging rural and urban environments in cities over our current industrial concrete hubs. For example, there is already a campaign to make London the world’s first National Park city by 2019. Other nations are also greening their cityscapes – In China, the government recently deployed 60,000 troops to reforest a considerable area around Beijing.

Ancient Britain was once densely forested but today only 13% of our land is under tree cover, making the UK is the fourth least wooded country in Europe. Reforestation is direly needed for both cities and the countryside, but it seems that rather than new urban forests flourishing, the meagre woodland tracts found in urban zones are often vulnerable. For example Sheffield City Council has been felling trees for highway renewal, while the National Elm collection of 17,000 elm trees found throughout Brighton & Hove is in a state of emergency due to Dutch Elm Disease, one of many fatal tree diseases that may become more rampant due to climate change.

7 ways to plant trees in Bristol

If you would like to see Bristol become the greenest city in the UK, here are 7 things you can do to help plant trees. 

1) Volunteer to plant trees
Bristol City Council welcomed the One Tree Per Child project, which aims to plant a tree for every primary school pupil in Bristol. They exceeded their initial target and now plan to plant another 24,000 trees by 2020. Schools are excellent focal points for tree-planting – Diana Beresford-Kroeger, the Irish botanist & author, suggests that trees planted in schoolyards provide nutrition for pupils, while also shielding them from UV rays, absorbing pollutants and giving off beneficial aerosols. Products such as timber and fruit could even provide schools with a source of income.

2) Sponsor a tree
Bristol City Council also run an urban tree sponsorship scheme, called TreeBristol, where you can sponsor the planting of a tree with an optional plaque. The scheme plants trees in Bristol's open spaces, parks, grass verges and streets.

3) Get a tree pack
The Woodland Trust, a UK charity that protects and promotes woodland throughout Britain, offers free tree packs to schools and community organisations as they “want to make sure that everybody in the UK has the chance to plant a tree.” The packs range from wildlife attracting hedgerows or groves to packs for growing wild edible produce or wood for burning or as craft material. They also offer single trees and packs to purchase if you’d like to forest your garden or land.

4) Volunteer with the Forest of Avon Trust
The Forest of Avon Trust plans to re-forest and link up the cities and forests of the former county of Avon. The Trust has recently planted trees alongside Sustrans pathways and offers foraging and forest school certification training. As well as giving your time, you can also dedicate trees and support financially, and the charity also runs training for forest school certification.

5) Volunteer with the Avon Wildlife Trust 
The Avon Wildlife Trust has a broader focus on wildlife, such as managing wildflower meadows and other habitats, but the opportunity to plant trees still comes up. Just recently, in nearby Batheaston, the Wildlife Trust assisted in planting a new sustainable orchard. 

6) Volunteer with Incredible Edible Bristol 
Incredible Edible Bristol has a focus on growing edible plants in urban Bristol, including fruit trees. Dotted throughout their Bristol sites, they have trees ranging from apple to Clementine, producing free food in the city. Incredible Edible’s sites include Quaker’s Burial Ground, outside Temple Meads, the green around St. Mary Redcliffe Cathedral, and they have recently started work on a new city farm site in Hartcliffe.

7) Plant a tree in your own back garden
If you are lucky enough to have access to a garden or land, growing a tree from seed can be surprisingly simple. In autumn, trees will drop their seeds, then they will need cleaning, drying, and propagating through a simulated winter by being put in the fridge. This will make them take root. Fruit trees, be warned, need more technical finesse to bear fruit, and some common trees such as sycamores will grow fast but not live long. Hardy natives such as oak, grown from acorns, can last over a thousand years. For more information on planting trees check out this RHS guide to tree planting.

Green is the colour of sustainability for a reason, and by introducing more greenery in the form of trees in Bristol we can literally make it a Green Capital, filling the city with trees that help relieve stress, absorb pollution and provide natural fuel and food.

Article written by Tom Stevens

Photo credit: Liam O'Reilly