A giant new wood bigger than the Olympic park is to be created in Surrey as part of plans to mark the First World War by planting millions of trees across the UK, the Woodland Trust announces today.
The 640-acre site at Langley Vale, near Epsom, Surrey, will house more than 200,000 trees, ranging from alder, beech, blackthorn and wild cherry to crab apple, pedunculate oak and whitebeams.
Four flagship woodlands totalling 1,000 acres – one each in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the Surrey site – will be planted as part of a £12 million project to provide a memorial to the First World War which is intended to last for hundreds of years.
More than three million free trees will also be provided for schools, communities and youth groups as the Woodland Trust seeks to remember those who died in the war at the same time as providing some much needed extra trees.
The UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe, with just 13 per cent of the country covered by trees – compared to an average of 44 per cent across the continent.
Trees and woods improve the landscape by creating a vibrant network of different habitats, leading to healthier ecosystems to support wildlife and providing great places for people to visit, the Woodland Trust said.
“At a time when our woodland cover is so low compared to other countries, planting trees now is more important than ever,” said Woodland Trust's project director Karl Mitchell.
“As well as representing the enormous strength and bravery shown by the nation during the First World War, the trees that are planted during the course of the project will help strengthen our natural landscape, increasing its resilience to threats posed by pests and diseases,” he added.
The Woodland Trust is working on its Centenary Woods project with Sainsbury’s.
Justin King, the chief executive of Sainsbury’s, said: “I especially think of my late great grandfather Charles Robert Avery, who was a bombardier in the First World War, and it is pleasing to know that I can ensure his contribution will be permanently remembered, along with many others.”