National Tree Week – bringing Britain together through roots

It’s National Tree Week, so we’re taking a moment to celebrate how tree planting along rivers brings our nation together.

Matthew Woodard


The word ‘riparian’ comes from the Latin ‘ripa’ meaning ‘bank’ or ‘shore’. By strategically planting trees along riverbanks, we can have a huge impact on water. From mitigating flood risk through slowing the flow of water over land, to reducing bankside erosion and providing shade and shelter to local wildlife such as birds, insects and fish.

While 2022 has been turbulent at times, we can end the year knowing that The Rivers Trust movement has been making the British landscape better through tree planting to support our waterways.

Over in Northern Ireland, The Ballinderry Rivers Trust has been working with farmers in the Water Innovation Network to assess the efficacy of nature-based solutions to support farms against the elements.

“Water poses a constant management problem for farmers in Northern Ireland (NI). On average around 1000mm of precipitation falls on every square meter of NI each year. If not adequately diverted and/or collected, this water makes its way across farms picking up contaminants, such as nutrients, chemicals and soil. Agricultural contamination of watercourses often results in legal action against the farmer, resulting in fines, loss of subsidies and even custodial sentences.” –
Water Innovation Network

While wetlands aid the dirty water concern, they also take time, money, and a lot of space. Instead, the partnership has proposed planting willow trees, which have a proven ability for bioremediation, or the ability to ‘clean’ contaminated soil through microbes and bacteria. The project has identified this situation as an opportunity to develop a system which can then be replicated on other farms which face a similar problem

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Ireland is set to face “substantial increase in the frequency of heavy precipitation events in Winter and Autumn”, so these measures are crucial.

In the Republic of Ireland, several Rivers Trusts have planted trees through collaboration with Trees on the Land. For example, Inishowen Rivers Trust has planted over 4000 trees across Inishowen since 2017 with help from local landowners and community volunteers.

In addition to the above work, a partnership is also being explored with the Woodland Trust to allocate a dedicated resource for woodland creation across Northern Ireland. The new woodland officer post will look to engage with landowners to plant trees in catchments for a multitude of benefits, which include natural flood management, riparian shading and preventing diffuse agricultural pollution.

Back over in England and on the borders of Wales, one of our Defra-funded projects, Woodlands for Water (W4W) highlights how tree planting can benefit farmers and landowners.

Our member trusts across the country have been working with local landowners to highlight the advantages of riparian tree planting through the English Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO). This grant offers monetary benefits for tree planting while providing safe habitat and green infrastructure to tackle climate change. The local trusts are also resourced to provide advice and support to landowners to apply for the EWCO and explore carbon finance options to incentivise woodland creation further.

The W4W project has been running since October 2021 and has submitted 88Ha in EWCO applications to create new riparian woodland. There is also a pipeline of 352Ha being actively pursued across seven pathfinder areas in England and the National Trust English Estate.

The Rivers Trust are also actively working on cross-border join-up across all four UK nations to share best practice and lessons learnt to accelerate woodland creation to achieve benefits for both people and planet. We are working closely with Fisheries Management Scotland to also capture the myriad of tree planting activity across the Scottish Rivers Trusts.

The Rivers Trust will continue to work with governing bodies, landowners and local communities to ensure more conscientious nature-based solutions in and for the future.

Written by: Gabriella Ghelani

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