Tiny forest gives Wolverhampton school a natural classroom

A ‘tiny forest’ in Wolverhampton planted more than a year ago has now grown into a natural classroom environment for local schoolchildren.

The entrance to the Tiny Forest site in Oak Street, Merridale, Wolverhampton
The entrance to the Tiny Forest site in Oak Street, Merridale, Wolverhampton

The development of 600 trees in Oak Street, Merridale, is one of 12 Tiny Forests across the city and was the first to be seeded in March 2021, thanks to funding from ward councillors and climate change organisation the OVO Foundation.

Children from nearby Merridale Primary School, who assisted in the planting, have been working with environmental charity Earthwatch Europe to maintain the site, with each pupil adopting an individual tree to look after and monitor.

Graiseley councillors Jacqui Sweetman and John Reynolds,  who were instrumental in getting the project off the ground, visited the site this week with the council’s champion for climate change Councillor Barbara McGarrity.

Councillor Reynolds said: “Our pioneering tiny forests connect schools and communities directly with nature, and support the council’s tree and woodland and open space strategies.

“They also form part of the response to its climate emergency declaration made in July 2019. The council has a commitment to the city becoming net carbon zero by 2028 and this helps moves us a step closer.”

The forest is roughly the size of a tennis court and contains 18 species of native trees and shrubs including oak, lime, beech, elm, birch, cherry, hawthorn, hazel and heather.

As part of their project, schoolchildren and local residents work with Earthwatch staff to monitor the forest and collect data on carbon absorption, flood mitigation, thermal comfort and biodiversity, as well as assessing the social and wellbeing benefits.

Hannah Davidson, from Earthwatch, said: “The main partner we worked with on the projects in Wolverhampton was Severn Trent.

“We plant the trees close together using a specific method called the Miyawaki method, which is Japanese, and it’s designed to encourage the plants to compete for light which is why they grow very quickly.

“Some weeding is required but in terms of thinning out or cutting back, that’s not really needed so we can just let them grow naturally.

“We’ve given the teachers at the school all the materials they need to work on the forest and the children really enjoy collecting the data,” she added.

Since 2020, 149 Tiny Forests have been planted across the UK.

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