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Over 13,000 trees planted at Blickling to create habitat for wildlife along the River Bure

Child plants a young tree in new woodland at Blickling
Child plants a young tree in new woodland at Blickling | © National Trust / Kezia Everson

Over the last few months, National Trust staff and volunteers, community groups and children from a local primary school have helped plant new woodland areas on the charity’s Blickling Estate in Norfolk, creating wildlife corridors and vital habitats along the River Bure.

22 different tree species were planted, as part of the National Trust’s Riverlands project, to improve the wider catchment and biodiversity links along the River Bure, a precious chalk stream.

There are just over 200 chalk-stream rivers around the world and the River Bure is one of them. The river source starts in Melton Constable and passes through both the Blickling and Felbrigg estates. The river flows into the internationally important Norfolk Broads which is Britain’s largest designated wetland and a haven for wildlife.

Stuart Banks, Countryside Manager at the National Trust’s Blickling Estate, said:
“Thanks to funding from the ‘England Woodland Creation Offer’ we’ve been able to plant three areas of new woodland, one by Blickling Lodge, one on the river near Ingworth and the third on the edge of Bunker’s Hill plantation, the strip of wood that runs between Buck’s Common and the Great wood.

“All of these areas will enable us to create links with existing woodlands and provide important wildlife corridors for species such as owls, bats and woodpeckers.”

Stuart added:
“We’ve installed a barn owl box in the woodland adjacent to one of the new planting areas. The parkland is home to a healthy population of barn owls as well as buzzards and red kites, which frequently hunt over the woodland margins and hedgerows. Raptors and owls will help to keep numbers of small mammals down, which tend to strip bark from the new trees and stop them growing to maturity.

“The estate has records for eight bat species, including the scarce barbastelle which is a specialist woodland species. The newly planted woodland areas will be a real benefit to bats, connecting existing woodlands and creating feeding corridors along the edges.

“Woodcock, woodpeckers, tree creepers and nuthatches, as well as grass snakes and adders will all also benefit from these woods in years to come.“

Stuart explained:
“The tree species were selected based on predictions for the future climate in this part of Norfolk. We know it’s getting warmer and drier in the East of England, so we’ve worked with climate modelling software to plan for a woodland that will thrive in changing conditions.

“We’ve also used matting and wood chips at the base of the trees to keep the soil moist and suppress weeds – all to help give these trees the best start we can.

“As well as providing a habitat for insects, birds and mammals, woodlands help to store water in the landscape, keep our landscapes cool, clean the air we breathe and store carbon; both in the trees we’re planting and the soils that will build up beneath and around them.”

The 22 different tree species planted are:
Alder, Silver birch, Downy birch, Hornbeam, Hazel, Hawthorn, Crab apple, Wild cherry, Blackthorn, Sessile oak, Pendunculate oak, White willow, Wild service tree, Small leaved lime, Black poplar, Red oak, Sweet chestnut, Common walnut, yew, Corsican pine, Field maple and Whitebeam.

Emily Long, Riverlands Project Manager, said:
“The work supports our Riverlands ambition of creating a landscape that is healthy, clean and rich in wildlife. By establishing more areas of trees that help bind soils and disrupt the flow of water we can slow, store and filter water to protect our rivers. Creating links between established woodland and our new areas will also create habitat corridors to support a range of mammal and bird life.”

Heather Jermy, General Manager at Blickling Estate, said:
“When I visited one of the new woodlands being planted on the estate, it was a visual and important reminder about the impact of our actions, not only today, but also decades into the future. Seeing thousands of trees as tiny saplings and knowing they will grow into a woodland is exciting. I’m looking forward to finding the sweet chestnut I planted in 20 years’ time.”

As part of the National Trust’s ambition to plant 20 million trees by 2030, the team at Blickling will be creating around 8Ha of woodland over the next few years. The first of these was the Jubilee belt last year, linking Bunker’s Hill plantation with a small woodland on the west edge of the estate called Marlpit plantation.
Other ambitions include the restoration of over 100 hectares of native woodland. Non-native trees, which were planted as a timber crop, are being removed to allow space for native trees to grow in their place.

Visitors will notice some areas of the woodland changing as these selected trees are taken out to allow light to reach the woodland floor; prompting a spring flourish of woodland wildflowers such as foxgloves to appear.

This work was undertaken as part of the National Trust’s Riverlands programme, a nationwide scheme to improve the country’s waterways. Working with partners across the freshwater, woodland and farmed landscapes, to ensure clean water, healthy rivers and good habitat connectivity. More information can be found at

Funding for the tree planting was made possible through the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) from the government with a feasibility grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation. Thanks to partners at The Forestry Commission.

The wider Riverlands project is funded thanks to The Environment Agency, People’s Postcode Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, and UKRI – UK Research and Innovation. Partners include Norfolk Rivers Trust, Natural England, The Environment Agency, Norfolk Ponds Project and Norfolk Rivers Internal Drainage Board.