‘Wood For The Trees’ is series of films dedicated to the future of British forests, woodlands and trees, where I try and balance my deep despair at the declining state of our woodlands with a healthy dose of optimism. Since the project began late in 2019, and despite Covid and Brexit, planting trees, and a wider debate about land-use, have risen to the top of the political agenda. I’ve attended ‘virtual’ conferences debating policy on tree planting plans, woodland management and timber production, and the discussion continues.
In our last film, Small Woodland Challenges and Opportunites, we identified the fact that 40% of the trees in this country are based in small woodlands and considered how important it is to recognise and understand the issues facing owners of these woodlands.
For part 7 of Wood For The Trees, we widened our focus to explore options for land that is not currently forested. I wanted to look at agriculture and how farms can contribute to increasing and improving woodland cover. In the UK agriculture makes up about 70 % of land use, and only about 5% of this is woodland cover. If we are going to meet government tree planting targets then a lot of this is going to have to happen on agricultural land.
Currently in the UK agriculture – the growing of food – and forestry – the growing and harvesting of trees – are treated as separate disciplines. I believe that this siloed approach has been reinforced by the common agricultural policy, which has for years disincentivized the planting of trees on productive agricultural land.
However there is a way to farm that involves food production and increased tree cover: agroforestry. This concept promises many environmental and ecological benefits. As agriculture is definitely not my area of expertise, I went to meet two people who have practical experience. Chris Smaje, author of Small Farm Future and his wife Cordelia Rowlatt moved into farming in 2003. I went to their farm, Vallis Veg near Frome in Somerset to find out why they got into farming and how trees have helped transform their land.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, Wood For The Trees, to see the next film first. We visit a sycamore progeny trial, to find out how Vastern Timber’s support for the Future Trees Trust is helping identify the best sycamore seeds for the future.