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 simple way to make a difference.

Somerset has developed a Somerset Tree Strategy setting out what our plan for treescapes are in Somerset. You can view the strategy on our Climate emergency strategy page.

Before Somerset Council was formed, all our former district councils helped support communities in planting trees across Somerset.

  • Mendip District Council
    • used funding from the Queen’s Green Canopy and Forestry Commissions Treescapes round 2 funds, to plant over 10,000 trees in the 2021 and 2022 planting seasons
    • 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 District Council
    • provided free trees to local parishes planting around 300 during the 2021 to 2022 planting season
  • South Somerset District Council
    • planted over 8,000 trees across their district since 2018, 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 Council
    • ran free tree giveaways to their parishes resulting in trees being planted in 2021 to 2022 and 2022 to 2023
    • planted over 100 Trees through the Queen’s Green Canopy in 2022 at Higher Holway Open Space in Taunton, Culvercliffe in Minehead, and Fox’s Field in Wellington

To find out about support and grants available for tree planting visit our Funding and Grants page.

When looking to plant it is vital to follow the ‘Right Tree Right Place’ principle. This is about making sure trees are planted in the correct environment and match the ecology, soil and support the biodiversity and character of the area. The Forestry Commission, Woodland Trust and The Tree Council all have a wealth of resources for further information.

If you are looking to develop your own tree policy or management plan take a look at our example templates.

Somerset’s Landscapes

We are blessed in Somerset to have such amazing and varied landscapes. These include the Somerset Levels, four different designated areas of natural beauty, the Somerset coast and Exmoor national park. We have even got some of our own green spaces which have been awarded Green Flag status.

Somerset Wildlife Trust is one of 46 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 helps capture all the different data we have on our environments and species across the county. To find out more information on them visit the Somerset Environmental Records Centre website.

You can also get involved in mapping Somerset’s biodiversity. Launched on 4 October 2022, Somerset Environmental Records Centre are carrying out Community Wildlife Mapping using data from iNaturalist. This means any sightings you record on iNaturalist will feed into Somerset Environmental Records Centre 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.

For more information on some of the different landscapes we have, including Our Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Exmoor National Park, visit the links below:

Explore Somerset Council Country Parks and Local Nature Reserves

Visit some of our spaces that have been awarded Green Flag status

Ham Hill Country Park

Ham Hill is a stunning wildlife haven centred around an Iron Age hillfort. It offers fantastic opportunities for scenic dog walks, walking, running, playing and wildlife watching with far reaching views across Somerset.

Find out more about this wonderful place, what’s there and what’s on, including the exciting Uncovering Ham Hill’s Past for its Future Project. This will see the building of a brand-new visitor centre, and protect and enhance the lush biodiverse and geological landscape that’s home to so much wildlife and history. Check out the video to see Ham Hill in all it’s splendour.

You can find out more about Ham Hill Country Park by visiting the Visit South Somerset website.

Follow Ham Hill Country Park on Facebook for all the latest news from our rangers and volunteers.

Yeovil Country Park

Yeovil Country Park takes you on a journey around woodlands and waterfalls following the River Yeo to meadow pastures and far-reaching views to the wider countryside. The park has five main areas that all have very different characteristics and land features. The landscape varies from Ninesprings which is the most heavily used and accessible section with its network of footpaths and waterways to the Riverside walk which gives the feeling of being away from the hustle and bustle of town as you stroll through woodland following the path of the River Yeo.

Visit the Ninesprings Café at the start of your journey to find out more.

Find out more about this hidden gem in the heart of Yeovil by visiting the Visit South Somerset website.

You can also follow Yeovil Country Park on Facebook to see all the latest news and events.

Chard Reservoir Local Nature Reserve

Chard Reservoir Local Nature Reserve is a fantastic site for bird watching and walking, following wildflower meadows through to woodland edge surrounding the expanse of open water with spectacular scenery. There is a small children’s woodland play area. The reserve is dog friendly and they are welcome, but there is a strict ‘dogs on short leads’ zone in the woodland and dogs are not allowed in the woodland near the bird hide.

To find out more about Chard Reservoir Local Nature Reserve including events planned for the coming months, visit Chard Reservoir Local Nature Reserve – Visit South Somerset.

You can also follow Chard Reservoir Local Nature Reserve on Facebook.

Berrow Dunes Local Nature Reserve

Berrow Dunes Local Nature Reserve lies within the much larger Berrow Dunes Site of Special Scientific Interest. It borders the Bridgwater Bay National Nature Reserve which was designated under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland habitat of international importance and special protection area. The sand dune systems found within the Local Nature Reserve are rare, both on a national and local scale and contain a wide variety of coastal habitats that support a diverse range of flora and fauna.

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 Local Nature Partnership is on nature recovery networks. Under sections 104-106 of the Environment Act 2021 there is a legal requirement to produce a Local Nature Recovery Strategy. Further guidance is due to be published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 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 Local Nature Partnership.

Council land

Former Somerset West and Taunton Council and Sedgemoor District Council published their Ecological Emergency Vision and Action Plan. The vision statement states that

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 former district councils:

  • former Somerset West and Taunton Council ran meadow creation pilots in 2020 in three different areas
  • former Sedgemoor District Council 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
  • former South Somerset District Council

Biodiversity and Habitats

We recognise the need for a considered and robust approach to nature conservation across the county.

Here is what we are doing to support biodiversity:

  • All information on Grasslands
  • Somerset West and Taunton Council 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.

Community Environment Toolkit

Former 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 has been designed for use by community groups, local landowners, parish and town councils, schools and youth groups. It 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. The appendices provide further detail and local case studies to support the planning and engagement, development, and 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 work with local landowners (see Appendix 3).

  1. Community Biodiversity Toolkit
  2. Appendix 1: Planning and Enforcement
  3. Appendix 2: Developing your Plans
  4. Appendix 3: Delivery and Practical Tips

Our communities can make a real difference to their own local areas. When joined up they will help to create a landscape-scale network of habitats rich in biodiversity. This 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 could make a huge difference.

Pollinator Action Plan

The former Somerset County Council, in partnership with Friends of the Earth and Somerset Wildlife Trust published a county-wide Pollinator Action Plan. This is 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 important 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.

The former South Somerset District Council partnered with the Bumblebee 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 visit the Pesticide Action Network website.

Last reviewed: April 2, 2024 by Jenny

Next review due: October 2, 2024

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