Trees and hedgerows are vital for wildlife as food plants, shelter and housing. From small invertebrates to hedgehogs, from fungi to badgers, so many species of fauna and flora depend on these habitats all year round. The benefit of trees and hedgerows to humans also can’t be underestimated, who can resist the sound of trees rustling in the wind or the branching shade of a large oak on a sweltering day.

National Tree Week marks the beginning of the winter tree planting season which runs all the way through to March. This campaign dates back to the 1960s when Dutch Elm disease wiped out more than 20 million trees across the UK. In an effort to claw back such a devastating loss, communities were encouraged to come together to plant trees in local green spaces. But like all conservation drivers, tree planting is not limited to groups or organisations; individuals like you and I can make a difference by popping a tree into a pot outside the front door, replanting the Christmas tree or putting up hedging instead of a fence. 

In the wake of COP26 and global concerns around climate change we know that trees and hedgerows are the ultimate carbon storage machines and best of all, they absorb carbon for hundreds or even thousands of years. However, tree planting and forest restoration do not mean the same thing, so don’t feel overwhelmed by all the emphasis on regenerating large swathes of woodland and forest. One sapling, preferably native will do. 

Alder is a typical example of a species that thrives in East Anglia. It’s well adapted to  wetlands such as fens and marshes. Not only is this tall, deciduous tree an important ally in the fight against climate change, it’s long roots help bind the soil alongside rivers and streams preventing erosion.  These are one of our favourite trees on the reserve and at this time of year you’re likely to find siskin and redpoll settled in their branches. 

If planting a tree seems a little daunting, lots of the broad leafed varieties such as birch, beech or hazel require little management. These species tend to grow well in even the poorest soil.

You won’t need to invest in bags and bags of rich fertiliser and ongoing maintenance is pretty straightforward. Look around you to see which species are growing locally, they will already be adapted to regional soils and climate and will only need a little upkeep. Once established, native trees thrive well and are able to tolerate long dry summers and wet, windy winters. 

There’s lots of advice on the Tree Council website ( which will help you choose the appropriate tree or hedge for your garden or green space.