BLOG: The Northern Forest: Creating an environment we will be proud to pass on

17 September 2020

Ahead of tree planting season we look at an update on the Northern Forest.


Across the North of England, around 2 million saplings have been silently sprouting.

In our schools, on our streets, along our rivers, as part of new developments and woven into local green spaces - trees have firmly taken root connecting communities and creating corridors for wildlife.

This is all part of an ambitious plan to plant 50 million trees – a new Northern Forest - encompassing the cities of Liverpool, Chester, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.

This is the vision of the community forests in the north – The Mersey Forest, City of Trees, White Rose Forest, and HEYwoods – working with the Woodland Trust to bring the Northern Forest to life.

City of Trees is the community forest for Greater Manchester and is making this happen in our city region.


One of the best solutions to our climate emergency?

From boosting biodiversity, improving our health and wellbeing, reducing the risk of flooding, locking up carbon and cleaning polluted water – trees really are amazing.

In fact, they could be one of the best solutions to our climate emergency – multifunctional, living tools that help make our urban areas more resilient to the challenges of a rapidly changing environment.

And the time to act is now - according to recent data from the State of the UK Climate report, northern England had the ninth wettest year in a series from 1862. Trees and woods can help to slow the flow of water, protecting our cities and towns.

Yet there is just 7.6% woodland cover in the North. This is compared to 10% across England, 15% in Wales, 19% in Scotland and 9% in Northern Ireland. Europe averages around 38% woodland cover.

The Northern Forest goes someway to address this inequity across the North, with City of Trees leading the way in our city region.

The difference new trees and woods can make is tangible; for example if Greater Manchester was to increase tree cover by just 10%, this would neutralise the urban heat island effect.

Conversely, a 10% decrease in urban greening would increase the maximum surface temperature by up to 7°C in high density residential areas – showing we not only need to plant more trees but protect what we have.

At City of Trees we undertook the biggest i-Tree Eco survey outside the United States, with the aim of quantifying the value of Greater Manchester’s trees and woods. (

We found that the total annual economic value of air pollution filtration, stormwater attenuation and carbon sequestration in Greater Manchester’s trees is £33,298,891.

And that’s only the benefits you can put a price on…


For both people and planet

The GMCA’s environmental vision outlined in the 5 Year Environment Plan includes more trees especially in urban areas and all citizens having access to greenspace as well as an environmental education.

At City of Trees we’re passionate about connecting people to nature – ensuring everyone can experience that magical woodland walk, notice the signs of spring and wonder at the riot of autumn colour.

This is especially important for our future generations. A recent study by the University of Belgium showed that growing up in a greener urban environment boosts children's intelligence and reduces behavioural problems – boosting IQ by as much as 3%.

As part of the Trees for Learning programme we planted over 60,000 trees with around 350 Greater Manchester primary schools creating outdoor education areas and forest schools of the future. And we plan to do more.


Dig in - be part of it

As we say at City of Trees, these are ‘All Our Trees’ and we all have a part of play in not only protecting our existing treasure trove of trees, but to unlock land and resources to help plant more.

Across the North we need places to plant – whether that’s on school grounds, sports clubs, as part of a new development or even old landfill or brownfield sites.

We also need people  to get their hands dirty – planting trees and keeping green space in good shape. Businesses can also get involved by pledging to go greener or sponsoring a project.

The Northern Forest is our legacy so let’s worth together to create an environment we will be proud to pass on.

Find out more - / #NorthernForest