Eighteen months ago, Stephanie Nsom from Colourful Margate, Luke Evans from Thanet Community Forest School, Peter Hasted from the Sunken Garden Society and Thanet Councillor Ash Ashbee, got together to bid for a £500,000 Forestry Commission Urban Tree Challenge fund little believing they would get it. But they did and the Isle of Thanet Trees & Woods Initiative (ITTWI) was born.
Peter Hasted then accepted a full-time position in the project, selecting and planning the planting schemes and managing the work. The Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF) awards payments once the work is done. This inevitably leads to cash flow problems. Thanet Community Forest School could subsidise some of it, but not all, so donations were needed to bridge the gap as trees don’t come cheap! RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) kindly agreed to help fund the start-up costs. They initially donated £20,000, and have made further donations since then. Frances Tophill, celebrity gardener, agreed to become the patron of the organisation. The dream was becoming reality.
The first tree was planted in Dane Park with the help of volunteers, quickly followed by 99 more. The next phase of planting was The Big Dig; 284 trees planted in one day at Dane Valley Green, by Peter and more than 300 volunteers from the community. This was swiftly followed by 285 trees at the Thanet Community Forest School and 6 trees at the Sunken Garden at Westbrook.
In July 2020, Luke Evans decided to leave the project and ITTWI became a Community Investment Company (CIC), which allows it to raise funds and act commercially for the benefit of the community. And the existing UTCF project in conjunction with Forestry Commission and Thanet District Council was still very much alive.
Despite Covid, and when safe to do so, the Spring and Summer 2020 saw the Community out and about again watering the trees with the help of Quex Estates, who helped out with a Water Tanker for Dane Valley Green and Dane Park, the two biggest sites.
The new planting projects for Autumn/Winter of 2020/21 were disrupted by Covid once again and volunteers were no longer allowed to help. But, Peter and a small team including Karen McKenzie, Tree Warden for Broadstairs & St Peters, have managed to plant 440 more; Tivoli & Hartsdown Park in Margate now enjoys 250 new trees, 50 have gone in at Westover Gardens, Broadstairs and 50 at George V Avenue, Westbrook. In total, by the end of its first two planting seasons, Thanet is already benefiting from 1,945 new trees, with the remaining 68 trees in the Urban Tree Challenge Fund to follow later this year.
The team hope to be working with Thanet District Council to do more planting around Ramsgate for the next round of Urban Tree Challenge funding.
In April, ITTWI got TUF. More precisely it has become the Thanet Urban Forest CIC (TUF) and has a new Board of Directors. Peter Hasted is still managing the project as a Director and has been joined by Bo Beolens, Karen McKenzie and Sean Cheasley.
With a new Board who are focused on training, education and employment, it is proposed and hoped that primary and secondary schools will get on board as soon as they can, so that in the future, generations will be able to plant and maintain some trees in their local area and across the whole of Thanet. Planting from seed is one way of getting youngsters to appreciate how things grow and mature. Remember the saying: from tiny acorns the mighty oaks will grow.
If you or your school would be interested in any aspects of the tree planting projects, or would like to donate, or if you are a local company that can see the benefit of linking to TUF, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
. You can also find us on Facebook by searching Thanet Urban Forest. Our website, www.thaneturbanforest.org
is just about to go live too. Look out for trees popping up near you, it could be just about anywhere in Thanet.