In 2020 Terra Sulis was working closely with Friends of the Earth and local community group Chew Valley Plants Trees on how to find the space to double woodland cover in the Chew Valley as a response to the Climate and Ecological Emergencies.

The green and pleasant Chew Valley actually has little of what the Forestry Commission calls ‘woodland’. At just 7% it is well below the English and National averages of 10% and 13% respectively. However, we have found that there is more than enough space to double woodland cover without encroaching on arable land needed for food production or protected and priority habitats important for biodiversity.

As part of a joined-up plan we have created a parish atlas for each parish in the valley that outlines where to consider creating woodland. We have also thought about agroforestry and how trees could be incorporated into both arable and pasture systems and have made estimates of how much agroforestry each parish might accommodate. Each parish is different so the balance of woodland, silvopasture (trees with livestock) and silvoarable (trees with crops) will be different too.

According to the National Forest Inventory, which records areas of woodland greater than 0.5 ha in size, the percentage are of woodland cover in the Chew Valley is approximately 7%. That figure is comparable with the national level figure of 10% for England and 13% for the UK as a whole. So the Chew Valley has much less than the already low national average. Compared with most European countries this is very low. 

Chew Valley National Forest Inventory (2018), showing areas of ‘woodland’ that are greater than 0.5 hectares in size. Contains OS and Forestry Commission data, OGL 2022.

If we also consider small-woods (less than 0.5 ha) and individual trees in hedgerows and fields then the percentage cover figure climbs to about 13%, nearly double the NFI number, but still only the UK figure. 

Chew Valley LiDAR Tree Canopy Map (prepared for Friends of the Earth), showing tree canopy for all trees in woodland, small-woods and individual trees. Derived from Environment Agency LiDAR data. Contains OS and Forestry Commission data, OGL 2022.

Despite the low woodland figure there have been numerous new areas of woodland planted in the Chew Valley since the 2018 inventory. So the figure should start to climb as the trees grow and start to show on the map. The map below shows where trees exist now and areas where they may be introduced in red. The red areas avoid arable crop land, protected areas and priority habitats according to the woodland opportunity mapping methodology.

Chew Valley LiDAR Tree Canopy Map in green and the Woodland Opportunity Map in red. The red woodland opportunity areas indicated where woodland may best be created. This is a starting point for a conversation rather than a tree planting plan. Derived from Environment Agency LiDAR data. Contains OS data, OGL 2022.

Both the LiDAR tree canopy map and the woodland opportunity map were prepared at the England scale for Friends of the Earth.

Have a look at the My Chew Valley Parish page for parish based detail.