Our tree planting ambition

The high beech canopy in summer

We know that trees are our best natural defence against the climate crisis, so we're aiming to plant and establish 20 million of them by 2030.

Our approach, based on UK climate targets to reduce carbon emissions and the latest scientific evidence, will deliver tree planting projects that benefit people and nature.

Why we're planting and establishing trees

We need to act quickly to tackle the worst consequences of the climate crisis and global heating driven by carbon dioxide emissions. The UK is committed to achieving net-zero carbon by 2050. One of the ways it can do this is by planting more trees, which take carbon out of the atmosphere as they grow. 

The Committee on Climate Change said a sustained increase in tree planting would be needed to remove the necessary amount of carbon dioxide via woodlands by 2050. Its report Net-zero: The UK's contribution to stopping global warming, published in June 2019, said the UK's woodland needs to increase from 10,000 hectares to at least 30,000 hectares a year. This level of planting would see woodland cover increase from the current 13 per cent of UK land area to 17 per cent. 

As the UK's single biggest private landowner, we're in a strong position to help. We'll be planting and establishing 20 million trees across at least 17 per cent of the managed land we look after.

State of UK's Woods and Trees 2021, Woodland Trust

  • In Britain only 7 per cent of woodlands are in a good ecological state
  • In the UK 981 of ancient woodlands have been damaged or lost
  • Trees outside woodlands cover 3.2 per cent of Britain's land area
How we're doing it

 

 

Planting trees to benefit everyone 

Our approach to tree planting considers the needs of people, wildlife and nature. We'll be planting field trees, hedgerows and blossom trees, as well as maintaining and creating closed-canopy woodlands, agroforestry, wood pasture and commercial woodlands.

We'll help tenant farmers use trees in ways that are beneficial to them, whether that's generating income from the ecosytem services they create (water quality, carbon storage and recreation) or cultivating sustainably-produced timber. 

In some areas we'll plant new trees while in others we'll allow trees to naturally regenerate in ways that support biodiversity. Each project will be tailored to suit the needs of the landscape, wildlife habitat or historic place. 

Choosing the right trees 

  • All our trees will be grown from seed in the UK.
  • We'll source many trees from nurseries, where saplings are grown in containers, cells, polytunnels or directly in the ground. 
  • Bare root trees, which are taken from the ground during the dormant season, are more likely to be planted in the west of the UK as they fare better in wet weather. 
  • We'll use more cell grown trees, which fare better in drier conditions, in the east. 
  • The blossom trees we plant in cities are likely to have started off life in a container. 
  • Tree species will be carefully chosen to support the area's existing ecosystem. 
  • Trees that develop naturally have a better rooting system, which can make them more resilient.
" We have to take actions that can be delivered within the timescales needed to tackle the climate crisis we're facing. The science tells us that tree planting is one of the best ways to absorb carbon. We know it works and there's no time to lose."

How do trees absorb carbon?

As trees grow they absorb and lock in carbon emissions that contribute to global heating.

Our ambition to plant 20 million trees is likely to store about 300,000 tonnes of carbon a year. The carbon is not only stored by the tree and its roots but also in the surrounding soil. 

Woodlands made up of different tree species are not only good at absorbing carbon they also support a wide range of wildlife and are more resilient to climate change. To this end, we're planting many different species including oak, beech, lime, field maple, hazel and hawthorn. 

Top facts:

  • Oak trees and the soil that surrounds them absorb the most carbon once the tree is 30 years old (on average 15.5 tonnes per hectare).
  • At 100 years, a woodland could still be absorbing as much as five tonnes of carbon per hectare but its capacity to absorb carbon does taper off as it matures. Source: Natural England's report Carbon storage and sequestration by habitat, released in April 2021.
  • Carbon is also stored in the timber used to build some of the historic houses in our care. This is known as embodied carbon. 
What we've achieved so far

Our ambition to plant and establish 20 million trees by 2030 is progressing at pace thanks to your support. The £500,000 you helped raise through our plant a tree campaign made it possible for us to plant thousands of young saplings across the UK. We've also identified sites for a further 1.5 million trees to be planted during the next two years. 

Despite challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, we've managed to plant 76,000 trees in 2020. Many of these projects have received financial support from our partners, including Cotswold Outdoor, Great Western Community Forest, Manchester Manchester City of Trees and People’s Postcode Lottery. We're also drawing on the expertise of the Woodland Trust, Forestry England and the Community Forest Trust. 

Video

Working with farmers to plant trees

We're working with one of our tenant farmers to plant 9,000 trees and shrubs across eight acres of land at Sherborne Park Estate in Gloucestershire. Watch the video to find out how you've supported tree planting at Conygree Farm.

Beech trees

North Devon coast

Our largest tree planting project to date is the creation of a coastal woodland and wood pasture in the north of Devon. Thanks to funding from Cotswold Outdoor and your donations we've been able to plant 16,000 trees so far. We plan to plant a total of 125,000 trees at the site during the next three to five years. These unique mosaics of woodland will create a peaceful wildlife-rich oasis, prevent flooding and lock up carbon.

Aerial view of four rangers planting tree saplings with guards in a wet field with Moel Hebog and woodland in the distance

Hafod Garegog, North Wales

Tree planting on an area of reclaimed sea bed at Hafod Garegog will help to prevent floods. We're planting native tree species suited to wet conditions, including aspen, black poplar, willow, birch and hornbeam. The project will also support wildlife and enhance a National Nature Reserve full of ancient trees.