News article created on 11 March 2022

Thousands of trees to be planted across our canal network

We're planting 14,000 native trees over the next few weeks in a project that will plug gaps in hedgerows and establish new small woodlands, creating significant benefits for the wildlife that lives and travels along these green corridors and absorbing around 5,500 tonnes of CO2 each year.

Group of young people on the canal planting trees Students from Newfriars College help the Trust plant trees at Harecastle Tunnel on the Trent and Mersey Canal

About the project

Our project will focus on native small trees and hedgerow species including hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, dogwood, dog rose, and alder buckthorn as well as larger trees, including hundreds of oak, beech, wild cherry, silver birch, hornbeam, and common alder.

With increased urbanisation and the loss of thousands of miles of traditional farming hedgerows, the role of canals, which cut through landscapes to link important wildlife ‘islands’, has become increasingly important, providing passage, food and shelter for birds, bats, insects, small mammals, and other creatures.

Tackling climate change

Richard Parry, our chief executive, said: “Built to move goods and materials in the Industrial Revolution and still used by record numbers of boats today, canals have also become vital wildlife highways across England and Wales. The trees being planted will be enough to cover 21 football pitches, however by targeting the planting to create continuous hedgerows and transform unloved areas into woodlands and orchards, the total benefit will be much greater than the sum of its parts.”

The planting is being supported thanks to £150k of funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery through its Postcode Climate Challenge Initiative. In addition to ‘gapping’ of canal hedgerows, trees will be planted on old dredging tips, at reservoirs, existing woodlands and riverside sites across the country.

Group of young people on the canal planting trees

Richard continues: “With one in eight people not having access to private outside space, our canals have become everyone's back garden. So, in addition to being vital for wildlife and their ongoing role for boats, the woodlands and orchards that we’ll be creating, with the help of volunteers, will be peaceful places for local communities to spend time, with the mental and physical health benefits that being close to water and nature bring.

“The planting also represents a step change in moving to offset all residual emissions in helping to tackle climate change, with the trees predicted to absorb thousands of tonnes of carbon. We all have a role to play in working towards net zero.”

People's Postcode Lottery

Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “I’m delighted funding raised by our players is going to help Canal & River Trust increase the ability of the waterways to absorb carbon through this significant tree planting. The hedgerows, woodlands and orchards will also enhance the wildlife benefits of these green corridors and increase people’s connection with nature.

“Players of People’s Postcode Lottery are supporting this project as part of our Postcode Climate Challenge initiative, which is providing 12 charities with an additional £24 million in funding for initiatives tackling climate change.”