A housing association’s repairs and maintenance team has relocated a small forest to make space for a new development in Bury St Edmunds, thought to be the first project of its kind.
Rather than cut down the 49 trees – which include 39 English oaks – it was decided to try and save the woodland, by replanting it elsewhere.
The work was devised and carried out by a team from Flagship Services, part of the Flagship Group, when tasked to clear a site at Vinces Road in Diss, where 35 “affordable” homes are due to be built.
Flagship’s arboriculture services manager, Dan Curtis led the pioneering project to transplant the 39 English oaks, nine hawthorns and one field maple to another site 20 miles away.
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 woodland, called Greens Wood, is subject to a blanket Tree Preservation Order; according to Curtis that means the ‘newcomers’ should have every chance of success.
He added: “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. 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.
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 the group’s commitment to improving its green spaces.
She added: “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.
Main image: (Left to right) 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
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