The Essex Forest Initiative

Find out more about the Essex Forest Initiative and how you can get involved

In October 2019, we committed to plant £1 million worth of trees over the next five years. This included planting 375,000 trees, over 150 hectares, equivalent to the size of 210 football pitches.

So far, the initiative has exceeded its targets for the first 4 years, making a total of:

  • trees: 412,503 
  • hectares: 100
  • hedgerows: 51,028m

How to get involved

If you register as a volunteer with the Essex Forest Initiative we will contact you when there are upcoming volunteer opportunities, events and activities.

Register to volunteer

Why have we created this initiative?

The primary reason is to lock up carbon, offsetting the carbon produced which is contributing to ongoing climate change. But there are many other good reasons to plant forests and trees, such as to improve air quality, encourage biodiversity, and reduce flooding.

Who is paying for the trees?

Essex County Council broadly contributes 50% of the cost of the trees and planting.

There will be no cost for schools and local parishes that wish to be part of the scheme by planting on their grounds.

Support and partnerships include:

Where will the trees be planted?

The trees will be planted across Essex, including land from:

  • Essex County
  • District and Borough Councils
  • Parish Councils
  • Schools’ grounds
  • Private landowners

We want to work with all parties who are making land available for tree planting, including:

  • farmers and private households
  • businesses
  • schools
  • parishes
  • charities

Who can get involved in planting trees?

We'd like to encourage everyone to get involved with the Essex Forest Initiative. This could be individuals, schools, organisations (including voluntary sector) or parish councils. Whether you can provide land, plant trees, or help with events, we’d like to hear from you. For the latest news and information or to get in touch, please email or follow the Essex Forest Initiative Facebook page.

If you have more than 0.5 hectares of land and want to find out about tree planting, please email us at with the subject line 'Essex Forest Initiative'.

Why is this initiative important?

We are facing a climate change crisis and the planting of trees can increase carbon absorption as well as many other benefits. A total of 150 hectares of woodland locks up 60,000 tonnes of carbon over its lifetime. This is the equivalent of 12,000 hot air balloons of carbon dioxide.

What will happen at the end of the 5 years?

The aim is for the Essex Forest Initiative to continue to grow beyond the 5 year programme. Climate change effects will not have improved in 5 years and we believe there will still be an appetite for increased tree planting. If planting rates continue at the rates of this initiative, 1 million trees will have been planted by 2030.

Is there a wider forest initiative in Essex?

Yes, all the local councils have separate targets which add up to a current total target of 870,000 trees. The Essex Forest Partnership is a partnership of local authorities working together to achieve this target and more.

Should we be doing more than just planting trees?

Yes. Trees will not offset all the carbon produced. Every person should make a difference by trying to reduce their carbon footprint. You can do this by trying to use less energy by using your car less, turning your heating down, using non fossil fuels and so on.

Planting trees

Consider planting a tree in your garden or on your land. Make sure it will fit the space. Follow the Essex Forest Initiative Facebook page for the latest news, to join an event or to get in touch.

What tree species will be planted?

The majority will be native British species, especially in the countryside, but in more urban areas trees which are resistant to pollution and provide evergreen colour can be planted.

British trees include oak, ash, hazel, hornbeam, field maple, holly, crab apple, poplar, willow and alder.

When should trees be planted?

From November to March, preferably before Christmas.

Will the native trees be British Provenance?

Where we are seeking native trees we will specify they are from British seed sources.

Where will the trees come from?

We hope to buy them from Essex tree nurseries, but may have to acquire the trees from elsewhere in the UK, from nurseries that specialise in British provenance trees.

How big are the trees being planted?

Generally, the trees are 1-2 years old and only 30-60 cm high. They are bare rooted seedling grown in tree nurseries.

Are we creating woods or just groups of trees?

Both. We hope to plant most of the trees in woods but we have already planted small groups of 50 trees in the corners of fields and open spaces.

Will the new woodlands created be accessible?

Where we have created new woods we would like them to be open to the public. But in some situations, access will be too difficult to create and in some cases we will plant trees on private land and access will not be possible.

How do you plant a tree?

When we plant with the public we usually pit plant. That means we dig a small pit, the size of the tree roots. Then we place the tree in the pit and backfill with removed soil. Skilled foresters often slit plant for speed. They create a slit with a spade and slip the root ball into the slit.

The Woodland Trust website has helpful information on how to plant a tree.

How do you maintain the trees?

It is essential to keep the trees free from weeds for the first three years while growing. Today we rarely use herbicides and prefer to use woodchip (1 metre diameter) around the tree to suppress the weeds. Well planted small trees do not require supplementary watering.

What about protecting existing trees in my local area?

It is very important that we protect existing mature trees. They already have locked up substantial carbon, they provide shade and pollution amelioration and are features in our countryside and towns. If you feel one is threatened your local authority can issue a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) for specific trees. If a tree is protected by a TPO, the local authority’s consent is required before it may be felled or pruned. Trees located in conservation areas also have a degree of protection. To check whether a tree is protected, or to protect a tree, you should contact your local authority.

Who can I contact about tree diseases?

For queries about specific trees in your area, we advise that you contact the Tree Officer at your local authority.