WOODLAND charity Avon Needs Trees is close to buying its second piece of land in the Bristol-Avon catchment area to create new, permanent woodland.

The charity hopes to buy the 19 acres in Seend, near Melksham, in the spring.

Avon Needs Trees is aiming to raise £175,000 for the initial 19 acres opposite Pile Farm at Seend. It has been offered a further five acres next to it to create a forest, a community orchard and meadow.

One local resident, Jo McManus, has already stepped up to support the fundraising for the Seend purchase – she is planning to run 10 kilometres around local villages on Saturday, February 27 dressed as a tree, with all sponsorship going to the charity.

Mrs McManus said: “Several villagers have offered to help me make the costume. It will have native wildlife in the branches so it promises to be a spectacular!"

So far, Mrs McManus has raised £160 towards her £500 target.

READ MORE: Project to replace dying ash trees smashes target​

Nikki Jones, chair of Avon Needs Trees, said: “We’re absolutely delighted that Jo’s taken on this challenge. If Covid restrictions allow, we’ll be there to cheer her on. We can’t wait to see the costume.

"Buying this land will benefit everyone in the Melksham area, so we do hope she gets lots of sponsorship. Many thanks in advance to everyone who contributes.

"The Bristol Avon catchment area has less than six per cent woodland. This leaves land prone to soil erosion and therefore carbon loss, part of the habitat loss that is causing a biodiversity crisis, and all towns and cities have lost natural flood management, putting them at increasing risk of flooding."

Bristol-based Avon Needs Trees registered as a charity in July 2019. Its objectives are to lock up carbon, improve local biodiversity, provide natural flood management and publicly accessible green space.

Avon Needs Trees aims to buy land in the Bristol-Avon catchment area to create new, permanent woodland through planting and rewilding.

Ms Jones added: "The 19 acres at Seend will be turned into a mix of woodland, community orchard, meadow and ponds."

The land lies opposite Pile Farm on the other side of the Kennet & Avon Canal and ANT has already raised nearly £8,600 from a crowdfunding appeal.

The charity hopes to have acquired the land by this summer so that a pond can be created, basic biodiversity studies performed and preparations made for planting around 10,000 native broadleaf trees and 100 orchard trees in the winter.

The charity's first purchase, Hazeland, a 34-acre site at Ratford near Calne, was made possible through public donations and cash from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Bristol-based organic company Natracare.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Avon Needs Trees is busy planting 10,000 trees at Hazeland, and is planning public events and activities for the year to come.

This story first appeared in the Wiltshire Times.

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