There are plans to create a new forest near Keynsham which will be the biggest woodland in the South West in a generation, but the community’s help is urgently needed to turn the dream into reality.
Avon Needs Trees has this week launched an ambitious crowdfunding campaign.
The charity says it has just one month to fundraise £100,000 to help buy the land at Compton Dando and establish a 420-acre new woodland which will see 100,000 trees planted, alongside the creation of wetlands, hedgerows and species-rich grassland.
When put together with nearby woodland, the proposed new Lower Chew Forest would be bigger than Leigh Woods or the Downs (Clifton and Durdham) in Bristol, and 12 times the size of Royal Victoria Park in Bath.
Avon Needs Trees has been creating permanent woodlands since 2019, with four established woodlands already planted.
Chief executive Dave Wood said: “When Wick Farm came onto the market, we knew we had to act. It’s rare for such a large amount of land to come up in one go, particularly somewhere like Compton Dando which is so close to Bristol and Bath, and we know that biodiversity recovery is far more effective across a large area.
“It really is the biggest opportunity in a generation for us to turn around the critically low percentage of woodland cover in our region and create a forest-sized woodland.
“We have just 7.8% woodland cover in the West of England, compared to 13.2% average across the whole of the UK.
“The benefits of increasing this cover include helping to mitigate climate change, improving biodiversity connectivity and offering a place for people to volunteer, learn and connect with nature.”
The charity says the land also provides opportunities to explore regenerative food production and agroforestry.
Analysis by the Environment Agency shows this new woodland, along with leaky dams and wetland habitat, would help reduce downstream flooding in local villages, Keynsham, and Bristol.
A new, large woodland also offers significant health and wellbeing benefits for people, as well as great potential for education opportunities and skills development for the green economy.
With government and other grants coming together to pay a portion of the cost of the land and woodland creation, and an environmentally-focused bank interested in loaning the charity some of the money, the charity says it is “incredibly close” to being able to make this nationally significant new woodland a reality.
£100,000 is needed to help buy the land and plant the trees. You can find out more and make a pledge on the crowdfunding website at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/lower-chew-forest.
There are a range of rewards to individual and business supporters. These include opportunities to sponsor three-metre by three-metre plots and exclusive site tours.
The crowdfunding campaign closes on 8th March. Within the first few hours, more than £9,000 was pledged.