We all know how important Trees are to our environment. Not only do they produce oxygen they also sequester carbon, help manage flooding, filter water and provide habitat to over 80% of the world’s biodiversity. Planting, looking after and protecting trees can be a nice simple way to make a difference.
Somerset has developed a Somerset Tree Strategy setting out what our plan for treescapes are in Somerset. To see the strategy, head over to our strategies page.
Before forming Somerset Council all our district councils helped support communities in planting trees across Somerset.
- Mendip used funding from the Queens Green Canopy and Forestry Commissions Treescapes round 2 funds to plant over 10,000 trees in the 2021 and 2022 planting seasons. They also set up a network of Tree Wardens to map ancient woodland and trees across the district. The wardens now form part of our Climate Champions network.
- Sedgemoor provided free trees to local parishes planting around 300 during the 2021-2022 planting season
- South Somerset since 2018 planted over 8000 trees across their district through several schemes such as The Urban Tree Challenge Fund, Parish Tree Giveaway, annual planting schemes, rescued oak trees and Yeovil Recreation Centre.
- Somerset West and Taunton also ran free tree giveaways to their parishes resulting in over trees being planted in 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. They also planted over 100 Trees through the Queen’s Green Canopy in 2022 at Taunton – Higher Holway Open Space, Minehead – Culvercliffe and Wellington – Fox’s Field
To find out about support and grants available for tree planting have a look at our Funding and Grant page.
When looking to plant it is vital to follow the “Right Tree Right Place” principle. This is about ensuring trees planted are planted in the correct environment and match the ecology, and soil and support the biodiversity and character of the area. The Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust and Tree Council all have a wealth of resources for further information.
If you’re looking to develop you’re own tree policy or management plan take a look at our example templates.
We’re blessed in Somerset to have such amazing and varied landscapes from the Somerset Levels, four different designated areas of natural beauty, the Somerset coast to Exmoor national park. We’ve even got some of our own green spaces which have been awarded Green Flag status.
Somerset Wildlife Trust is one of forty-six wildlife trusts across the UK. They work across Somerset focused on restoring habitats and supporting a wide range of wildlife and restoring natural processes
Somerset Environmental Records Centre (SERC) helps capture all the different data we have on our environments and species across the county. To find out more information on them visit their website.
You can also get involved in mapping Somerset’s biodiversity. Launched on 4th October 2022 SERC are carrying out Community Wildlife Mapping using data from iNaturalist. This means any sightings you record on iNaturalist will feed into SERCs data and deepen our understanding of how Somerset’s biodiversity is changing. To find out more have a look at their Community Wildlife Mapping webpage and maps by simply clicking on your area
If you’re looking for information on some of the different landscapes we have, check out the links below
Our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Exmoor National Park
Local Nature Recovery Strategy
Somerset Council works alongside a range of partners as part of the Somerset Local Nature Partnership. This is a strategic partnership of members to champion Somerset’s important and valuable nature. View a full list of partners.
Part of the work undertaken by the LNP is on nature recovery networks. Under the Environment Act 2021 sections 104-106 there is a statutory requirement to produce a Local Nature Recovery Strategy. Further guidance is due to be published by the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) but the requirements listed so far are a statement of biodiversity priorities and a local habitat map. The Strategy will present a picture of biodiversity across Somerset and identify opportunities for recovery networks. The development of the Somerset Local Nature Recovery Strategy is being led by Somerset Wildlife Trust with support from members of the LNP.
Somerset West and Taunton District Council and Sedgemoor District Council published their Ecological Emergency Vision and Action Plan. The vision statement is “Our vision is a district where the needs of wildlife, people, and our local economies are integrated in a way that enables nature and communities to thrive now and in the future.” While the vision sets out our ambitions and targets, the action plan provides the practical steps to deliver ecological recovery. It builds on previous work to address the Climate Emergency, but with a specific focus on wildlife and habitats. The work that went into creating and implementing this vision and action plan will continue into Somerset Council’s response to the Ecological Emergency.
Trials of no-mow May and meadow creation have been undertaken previously by some of the district councils
- Somerset West and Taunton ran meadow creation pilots in 2020 in three different areas.
- Sedgemoor worked with Plantlife to run a no-mow May campaign at Apex Park, Highbridge. Around half a hectare was set aside to see what plants came up.
- South Somerset District Council worked in collaboration with their communities, parish and town councils to change the mowing routine at specific areas in Castle Cary, Ansford, Milbourne Port, Cucklington, Yeovil and Ilminster.
South Somerset District Council developed a case study based on work carried out at Yeovil Recreation Centre. Read it in full here
South Somerset District Council also created this Managing Your School Grounds for Wildlife pack
Biodiversity and Habitats
We recognise the need for a considered and robust approach to nature conservation across the county. Click the links below to find out more about what we’re doing to support biodiversity.
- All information on Grasslands
- Somerset West and Taunton also worked in partnership with Somerset Wildlife Trust to develop a Grassland management decision tree. This decision tree helps decide on the best way to manage grasslands for nature recovery alongside frequency of use. Grassland Management Decision Tree
Community Environment Toolkit
South Somerset District Council developed a Community Biodiversity Toolkit to allow communities to take the lead in defining and restoring biodiversity in their area. It’s been designed for use by community groups, local landowners, Parish and Town Councils, schools and youth groups, and provides a structure for how local communities can better understand what they already have in terms of biodiverse habitats, as well as how to plan for developing greater biodiversity in the future.
The Toolkit comes in four parts; an overview and introduction section, alongside three separate appendices that provide further detail and local case studies to support the i) planning and engagement, ii) development and iii) delivery of your community environment plans. We have also included a series of practical tips for how you can manage your land for biodiversity, as well as in collaboration with local landowners (see Appendix 3).
- Community Biodiversity Toolkit
- Appendix 1: Planning and Enforcement
- Appendix 2: Developing your Plans
- Appendix 3: Delivery and Practical Tips
Our communities can make a real difference to their own local areas that, when joined up, will help to create a landscape-scale network of habitats rich in biodiversity that will support nature recovery and all of the essential and varied benefits and services that our natural environment provides. Even the smallest project in the right place, which improves things for local species and important habitats, could make a huge difference!
Pollinator Action Plan
Somerset County Council in partnership with Friends of the Earth and Somerset Wildlife Trust published a county-wide Pollinator Action Plan. Designed to help secure the future of pollinators in Somerset.
The importance of pollinators to Somerset cannot be overstated. In the UK alone there are over 1500 species of insects that pollinate our crops and wildflowers. This includes bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles and wasps. These species are integral to the functioning of our ecosystems, but, sadly they are under threat.
- 50% of the UK’s bumblebee species are in decline – three of which have already gone extinct
- 71% of the UK’s butterfly species show declines
- Two-thirds of moth species are in decline
- 38% of Europe’s bee and hoverfly species are in decline
There is no single cause for the decline of pollinators, with declining population trends the accumulative result of habitat loss, climate change, disease and the use of pesticides, with neonicotinoids found to have particularly harmful effects.
Nationally, pollinators are estimated to contribute over £600 million a year to the UK economy through the pollination of commercial crops. If present declines continue, it is likely to cost an estimated £1.8 billion a year for the hand pollination of commercial plant species.
South Somerset District Council partnered with the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust to fight to save the Shrill Carder Bee.
The team at Ham Hill Country Park have begun habitat management on the site to encourage rare Shrill carder bees to recolonise from an existing population nearby. The habitat management will be centred around the hay meadows in the flat fields of the park and will include leaving areas of dense tussock grass for the bees to nest and hibernate.
The shrill carder bees emerge from June to October, so the aim is to create a habitat that will be a haven of late-blooming wildflowers for the bees to forage from. In particular flowers from the pea, daisy, mint and broomrape plant families have been shown to be important to the Shrill carder bees.
To find out more about the impact of pesticides on wildlife head over to the Pesticide Action Network