At our March meeting, we had a presentation from the Sheffield City Council Community Forestry Manager Catherine Nuttgens, (Catherine.Nuttgens@sheffield.gov.uk)
Catherine’s role is to lead a group within the Trees & Woodlands team dedicated to developing woodlands and working with the community to do this.
Her extremely informative talk on Forestry in Sheffield started from our woodland heritage. Extensive evidence of the industrial heritage can be seen in all our woodlands if we know where to look and what to look for. Early industries associated with woodland include iron smelting (evidence from 2500 years ago at Wincobank hill fort - the most undervalued wood in Sheffield, thinks Catherine!) and coppicing. Later use focussed on the extensive use of wood for charcoal up to the early 19th century when coal replaced charcoal as the primary fuel source. In the 20th century, many woods were opened up for public use, Ecclesall Woods being the first opened up to the general public for rest and recreation in 1928.
Moving to contemporary times, Catherine pointed out Sheffield actually has very good tree cover from a national perspective. She shared data from a 2017 survey which estimated Sheffield has 4.5 million trees (with a high proportion of broadleaf woodlands) within its municipal boundary, which - at about 8 per inhabitant - is high not just in city terms but also compared to some agricultural counties. The same study showed that 45% of Sheffield residents live within 500m of a 2hectare + woodland!
She explained the roles of the different staff in the Trees and Woodlands team including the tree officers, woodland officers, community officers and rangers and covered some of the main threats from pests and diseases, including Ash Dieback. She also highlighted the threat to trees from climate change and a great infographic illustrative of all the benefits of trees before sharing practical information on principles for tree planting and related impacts.
Catherine's Community Forestry team - much depleted in recent years but hopefully soon to be expanded – are constantly seeking appropriate places for tree planting and ways to then engage with the local community to plant and nurture the woodland created.
New national funding streams have been made available with £200k earmarked for community forestry in Sheffield which will be of huge benefit. Facing a nature emergency, it is more important than ever that we build in ecosystem resilience to sustain biodiversity and support natural carbon capture.
There is continuing enthusiasm from local people for tree planting and the job of Catherine's team is to ensure that the 'right trees are planted in the right places for the right reasons'. Sheffield Friends of the Earth hope to be able to contribute to this when the 2021/22 planting season begins again in November - when we will hopefully be free from the Covid restrictions which have so badly impacted the work of the Community Forestry team since March 2020.