Tree establishment

Preventing tree loss and increasing tree cover is widely recognised as a way in which the world’s population can tackle the climate crisis.

The High Weald AONB is a national landscape with many special qualities. As such, the impact of change needs to be carefully considered – whether it’s building development or land use change, such as tree planting.

Recognising the current huge enthusiasm to plant trees, we are currently working on a guide to establishing the ‘right tree in the right place’ in the High Weald.

As with all our guidance notes, this document should be used alongside the High Weald AONB Management Plan to ensure your project is meeting the Plan’s objectives for conserving and enhancing the AONB.

A wooded landscape…

The High Weald AONB is fortunate in that it already has many trees; it is the most wooded landscape in the country with 28% woodland cover (three times the national average). Its many small woodlands, connected by hedges, offer a vision for a wooded landscape that other parts of the country (and world) aspire to.

The great extent of woodland is no accident; for centuries the area’s woods were valued and protected by our ancestors. Trees provided timber and fuel for many industries, notably the Tudor iron industry.

Today, woods continue to be managed for timber but are increasingly valued for their recreation, wildlife, flood management and carbon capture and storage benefits.

Photo of misty High Weald wooded landscape

Right tree, right place

The main principles of establishing new trees in the AONB are:

  • The High Weald is naturally suited to growing trees.
  • Planting new trees is often not needed, trees will naturally ‘regenerate’ from seed if land is not grazed or mown.
  • Natural regeneration is cost-effective, creates woodland with species typical of the area and avoids the risk of importing disease.
  • There are lots of different ways of introducing trees into the High Weald landscape; in many places ‘block’ tree planting is best avoided.
  • Reinstating lost woods and hedges is a priority for tree and shrub establishment.
  • Tree establishment should avoid rare species-rich grassland. In autumn and winter it is hard to tell if you have species-rich grassland; a survey in the spring/summer is therefore recommended.
  • Woodland establishment should be in keeping with the High Weald’s historic field patterns, many of which are medieval in origin.
  • Tree establishment should avoid blocking scenic views.
  • Deer management is essential to tree establishment and health. Learn more about deer management in the High Weald.
  • As well as tree establishment, there are other actions that can help reverse climate change, restore nature and reduce flood risk, for example introducing regenerative farming practices.

If you would like help with planning a tree planting project, including finding out if your grassland is species-rich, or where woods and trees might have been lost, please get in touch.