Small ‘forest’ is shifted 20 miles in pioneering eco-project
- Flagship Group moves 49 trees from the site of a future affordable homes development
- The trees, including 39 English oaks, have been re-planted in woodland at Bury St Edmunds
- Pioneering project could be a model for future tree transfers
From left, Flagship Services arborists Fin Heywood and Peter Goulding, arboriculture services manager Dan Curtis, health and safety manager Jamie Craigie-Williams and environmental and sustainability manager Victoria Kruger with the first English oak tree moved to Greens Wood, behind Samphire Homes’ Bury St Edmunds headquarters, Coppice House.
Moving a pot plant is easy enough, but what about shifting a small forest?
That’s what a team from Flagship Services - the repairs and maintenance arm of housing provider Flagship Group – set out to do when called upon to clear a site at Vinces Road in Diss, where 35 affordable homes are due to be built.
Wanting to find a way to save the trees growing there, Flagship’s arboriculture services manager Dan Curtis led a pioneering project to transplant 39 English oaks, nine hawthorns and one field maple to another site 20 miles away.
Mr Curtis said: “At first it seemed like a bit of a mad idea. But the trees had to be removed from the site one way or another, so it made sense to have a go at it.”
The week-long operation saw the trees lifted out of the ground using a specialised ‘tree spade’ before they were loaded on to a lorry for the journey to woodland next to Coppice House in Greenwood Court, Bury St Edmunds - the headquarters of Flagship's housing association subsidiary, Samphire Homes.
The Flagship Services team lifting an English oak out of the ground at Vinces Road, Diss
The woodland, called Greens Wood, is subject to a blanket Tree Preservation Order, and Mr Curtis said the ‘newcomers’ should have every chance of success.
He said: “We don’t expect all of the trees to thrive in their new location, but it has still been worth attempting for the environmental gains we are going to make.
“It bodes well that we already have quite a few mature oaks on the site, which means the mycorrhizal fungus that these trees need to function is there too.
“The way we look after them over the next couple of years is going to be the key to it.”
The oaks are all 10ft-23ft (3m-7m) tall and are 10-15 years old. Mr Curtis said the value of the trees if bought from a nursery was over £60,000, but the operation to move them cost around £8,500.
He said he had never heard of another project like this, but, if successful, it could become a model for future tree transfers.
Flagship Services arboriculture services manager Dan Curtis at the site of the tree planting at Greens Wood, Bury St Edmunds
The woodland is a haven for wildlife including woodpeckers, owls, deer, and squirrels.
Flagship’s environmental and sustainability manager Victoria Kruger said the project highlighted Flagship Group’s commitment to improving its green spaces.
She said: "This fantastic initiative is aimed at saving valuable trees which would have otherwise been lost.
"As a landowner, we, at Flagship recognise that we have an important role in tackling the biodiversity crisis and contributing to the restoration of nature in the east of England.
"This is just one of a number of projects we have embarked on to regenerate land and transform unused green spaces into thriving wildlife habitats and accessible nature areas."
Facilities manager Danielle Golding said the new trees would contribute to efforts to transform Greens Wood into a sanctuary for Samphire’s staff to relax and work.
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Flagship Services arborists Peter Goulding and Fin Heywood planting one of the English oaks