Written evidence submitted by National Trust Cymru (HIL0022)

 

With our staff, members, volunteers and supporters, the National Trust is the biggest conservation charity in Europe. We protect and care for places so people and nature can thrive. Many millions share the belief that nature, beauty and history are for everyone. So we look after the nation’s coastline, historic sites, countryside and green spaces, ensuring everyone benefits. For everyone, for ever.

 

National Trust Cymru

In Wales, National Trust Cymru is proud to care for 46,000 hectares of land, 157 miles of coastline and 18 of the nation’s finest castles, houses, gardens and industrial sites. With the support of our staff and volunteers in Wales, more than 1.8 million visitors enjoy our places in Wales every year.  

Climate change and the loss of habitat and species represent the biggest risks to the future of the places in our care. We therefore need to do everything possible to lessen the impacts of climate change and to restore nature, to look after these places for everyone to enjoy forever.

As the UK’s largest conservation charity and private landowner, we can make a significant contribution to tackling these challenges. We have ambitious targets for creating new and restored habitat, reducing emissions and sequestering carbon on our land, and to support others to do so beyond our boundaries.

In Wales our ambition is to:

 

Nature based solutions including tree planting and woodland creation allow us to tackle climate change at the same time as growing and enhancing key habitats for nature, and offering more access to green outdoor spaces for people, to help boost health and wellbeing.

 

Working with our tenants and partners through planting and natural regeneration, we’ll establish over one million trees in Wales by 2025. We recognise the importance of ensuring that our investment is sustainable and brings genuine benefit to climate, nature and people, including local communities. Our planting reflects the differences in ecology, landscape, existing land management practices, the needs of local communities and the best science and evidence available.

 

Our farming tenants and commons rights holders are vital in helping us get this right. We also work with a wide range of organisations, including governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, local authorities, other NGOs and a range of public and private organisations to ensure that our planting contributes to our collective actions and play a significant role in addressing climate change, helping nature recover and thrive, and enabling more people to benefit from access to beautiful outdoors spaces.

 

Response to consultation questions

 

Question 1: Is the National Trust working with the UK and Welsh Governments to contribute to achieving their tree planting targets?

There is a significant consensus that the UK needs to establish more trees, after several decades of declining tree planting rates and historically low levels of tree cover compared to decades and centuries gone by. Trees play an extremely important role in the landscape, providing shade, carbon absorption, sustainable building materials, enjoyment for people and important habitat for wildlife. The UK has one of the lowest levels of woodland cover of any European country – around 13%, compared to a European average of 38% (not including trees outside woods). It is important that we care for existing trees as well as increasing the level of cover across the UK.

 

As a significant private landowner, the National Trust recognises the important part that we play in helping the UK and Welsh Governments to achieve their respective woodland creation targets. We are committed to doing more on our land to help increase tree cover, and aim to establish 20 million trees, increasing the cover of woodland on our land in England and Wales from 10 per cent to 17 per cent. In Wales, National Trust Cymru have set a target of planting one million trees by 2025. Although these targets are set independently of UK and Welsh Governments, and have been formulated based on external evidence and modelling, they are in line with both Governments’ climate targets.

 

We actively engage with Government officials to shape and guide strategy. We do this in a number of ways including engaging with developing policies and projects such as the National Forest for Wales. We welcome the opportunity to share our experience in tree planting and managing significant important areas of woodland when new policies, strategies and initiatives are being developed and progressed. Our engagement with the Wales Land Management Forums’ review of their draft ‘Woodland Creation in Wales’[1] report is an example of this.

 

In spring 2020, the Welsh Government announced their commitment to a National Forest for Wales which would create a network of woodland running the length and breadth of Wales and play an important role in protecting nature from the dangers of climate change and addressing biodiversity loss.

 

The Coronavirus pandemic has also demonstrated the multiple benefits of access to the outdoors for physical health and mental well-being. This has highlighted the importance of access to green space and we, National Trust Cymru, are urging the Welsh Government for a green recovery – an integrated approach considering ‘nature and climate together as the foundation of economic, social and political renewal and regeneration in Wales, reflecting the principles of the Well-Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.[2][3] As identified as a part of the Green Recovery Report and Task and Finish Group ‘nature based solutions must be the cornerstone of the green recovery’[4] and ‘woodland and hedgerow restoration and expansion’ is one of the actions noted.

 

Research commissioned by the Trust in 2020 mapped the most deprived and greyest areas of Great Britain, revealing 295 deprived neighbourhoods of 440,000 people that are grey deserts, with no trees or accessible green space.[5] We are committed to playing our part and during 2022 we look forward to working with Welsh Government further to identify opportunities to contribute and form part of the National Forest for Wales

 

Question 2: Is there a co-ordinated and consistent approach to planting trees on National Trust land across the UK and Wales?

The National Trust’s approach to tree establishment is co-ordinated and consistent. It is centred on the needs of people, wildlife and nature. We are committed to planting the right tree in the right place and in the right design. Our tree planting ranges from planting field trees, hedgerows and blossom trees, as well as maintaining and creating closed-canopy woodlands, agroforestry, wood pasture and commercial woodlands.

We ensure that we work with our tenant farmers to use and establish trees in ways that are beneficial to them, whether that's providing shelter for livestock, delivering agri-environment scheme commitments, helping farms adapt to climate change or improving local catchment management.

In some areas we plant new trees while in others we allow trees to naturally regenerate in ways that support biodiversity. Each project is tailored to suit the needs of the landscape, wildlife habitat or historic place. This is illustrated in the tailored approaches we’ve taken at two different rural locations in North Wales. At Hafod Garegog, near Porthmadog, the land was poor in biodiversity and there was a constant battle with flooding, here we have established 8ha of new native woodland using Glastir Woodland Creation funding. We have planted a mixture of native tree species which can deal with wet conditions with the aim that the land will improve its value for wildlife whilst also storing more carbon.  Whereas our upland farms at Llyndy Isaf and Gelli Iago in Snowdon are the perfect places to allow natural regeneration to expand the Meirionnydd Oakwoods SAC by light grazing with cattle and sheep.

We want to create balanced woodlands which deliver maximum benefit for landscape and local communities. Tree planting is just one example of the nature based solutions in response to climate change.

 

Question 3: Has the National Trust discussed its tree planting aims with its tenant farmers in Wales? If so, have farmers voiced concerns during these conversations?

Farming is the Trust’s primary land use in Wales; we proudly care for more than 46,000 hectares, 97% of which is farmland, and have over 240 agricultural tenancies. We believe that the future of farming and the environment are inextricably linked, each reliant on the other to succeed and want both to thrive. 

 

Working with our tenant farmers remains key to achieving this ambition and we continually explore how we can make improvements together to secure a sustainable future for farming in Wales, which delivers for climate, nature and people. We will discuss opportunities for tree establishment with tenants where this is appropriate to individual farms and holdings.

Our decisions on future land management are informed by opportunities for people, nature and climate and based on understanding the capability of the land, both now and in the future. We need the support of our farmers and want to support them in their businesses; we do this by combining our skills, expertise and passion. Each new tenancy agreement is designed to suit the farm’s individual context and needs and provides an opportunity for nature friendly faming in a way which will allow businesses to flourish. We work with our tenants to embed nature friendly solutions to climate change and where planting trees is an appropriate action, we co-operate to ensure it is of maximum benefit to them. As with any decision about land management there are sometimes differences of view, and we work through these in a collaborative and sensitive way to try and reach an outcome which benefits our tenants.

Tree planting on our Carneddau and Glyderau Estate is an example of how we work with tenant farmers to achieve a difference which is of benefit to the nation and generations to come. Over the past 7 years, our ranger teams have been implementing our nature recovery vision for a greater extent of ffridd woodland and wood pasture in the uplands. We have been collaborating with several of our tenants to plant trees using the innovative sabre planting technique as well as stock proof tree guards over large extents of ffridd land. This has enabled trees to establish whilst allowing sensitive grazing of our other important habitats (species-rich acid grassland, heathland and blanket bog) by our tenants to continue. This partnership approach has positively contributed to increasing valuable and diminished wood pasture habitat, which in turn supports an increasing diversity of bird, invertebrate and plant populations.

National Trust Cymru is committed to playing our part in rural communities and will continue to provide tenancy opportunities across Wales, including supporting young farmers, families and new entrants. This has recently included new tenancies at Ty Nant Eidda, Carrog, Hafod y Llyn Isaf and Ffynnonau Farm, and a further two opportunities at Ysbyty Ifan will become available over the coming year.

 

We are grateful for the opportunity to engage in this inquiry and would be happy to provide further information in the future.

 

January 2022


[1] Woodland Creation in Wales Report | GOV.WALES

[2] Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 – The Future Generations Commissioner for Wales

[3] Green recovery: supporting the environmental sector in Wales 2020 - Natural Resources Wales / Green recovery: supporting the environmental sector in Wales 2020

[4] Green Recovery: Priorities for Action Rr (cyfoethnaturiol.cymru)

[5] New research shows the need for urban green space | National Trust