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The Forest Canopy Foundation is a not-for-profit partnership of professionals from across the forestry industry who have come together to play their part in mitigating climatic change and restoring biodiversity across the UK. The Foundation manages an innovative scheme combining public and private finance that makes it more viable for landowners to plant trees. Its first scheme with the Blenheim Estate is creating 9 new woodlands covering over 130 hectares of degraded farmland in Oxfordshire.

The woodlands have been designed by forestry company Nicholsons to deliver a broad range of natural capital benefits and to contribute to nature recovery. These include sequestering 22,000 tonnes of carbon over a period of 25 years, net gains in biodiversity, purification of the Dorn River and local air, and reduced rates of soil erosion. The scheme will also incorporate an extensive network of new public footpaths and a forest school where forestry and environmental knowledge can be passed onto the next generation. The project aims to set new standards for auditing and transparency, with changes to the air, water, soil and carbon levels tracked using state-of-the-art technology such as intelligent drones.

“This scheme will create a ‘green corridor’ along the River Dorn which will prevent soil erosion into the world-famous Blenheim Great Lake,” said Roy Cox, Estates Director at Blenheim Estate. “Crucially, it will also offer the opportunity for local people of all ages to get involved and improve the landscape we all share.”

The project brings together funding from public and private sources. The Government has provided an England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) grant; and registration with the Woodland Carbon Code has enabled the Morgan Sindall construction group to provide private finance to support the scheme through the purchase of carbon credits at a price that reflects the wide range of benefits that the scheme will bring.

The design has been approved by Grown in Britain against their new Canopy woodland creation standard. The woodlands will also be verified by Grown in Britain throughout the project term to ensure all stakeholder objectives are met.

This truly is a different approach,” said Dougal Driver of Grown In Britain. “While many choose to carbon offset by planting trees on the other side of the world, Morgan Sindall are choosing sites in their own backyard, with a longer-term view and a commitment to support and nurture this forest for years to come.”

The woods will incorporate a variety of carefully selected trees to create a diverse and self-sustaining eco-system. These include Hornbeam, Lime, Sycamore, Wild Cherry, Oak, Norway Maple, Alder and Beech, with an understorey of woody shrub species including Hazel, Hawthorn, Viburnums, Euonymous and Dogwoods. Experimental species will also be included to assess climate resilience and a small percentage of conifer planted to provide winter habitats for wildlife. The site will also be used as a trial site for biodegradable tree shelters. The FCF has grown rapidly in the last year and now has a national network of 11 Expert Providers operating under the Foundation’s umbrella. Each provider is certified by Grown in Britain and can support landowners with woodland creation, agroforestry, or hedgerow planting by providing advice on funding streams available, establishment and long-term management.

It is hoped that the Blenheim Estate project will be the first of many such schemes for the Foundation. Watch the video giving full details of this project


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