National Tree Week 2023 took place from Saturday 25 November to Sunday 3 December and marks the start of tree planting season.

Belfast Hills Partnership celebrated National Tree Week with a number of events and talks. The theme this year was “Plant a Tree in ’23” echoing the original ‘Plant a Tree in 73’ campaign from which National Tree Week was born.

Volunteers enjoy a hard earned cup of tea in the Belfast Hills Native Tree & Wildflower Nursery
Tree Nursery Volunteers enjoy a well earned cup of tea during National Tree Week.

Volunteers in our Native Tree Nursery have been working tirelessly all year to ensure that BHP have a strong stock of native trees for planting across the Belfast Hills.  Another incredibly busy seed collection season has resulted in over 1,400 trees which are ready for planting. Amongst those are oak, rowan, and spindle, all of which have been grown from native stock across the Hills.

The benefits to tree planting are numerous, impacting on both human and planetary health. Time spent among trees decreases stress levels and alleviates anxiety and depression. Additionally, trees reduce urban heat and reduce and slow flooding. These are particularly important benefits in light of recent weather events across the North.

During the week, Belfast Hills Partnership Manager Jim Bradley attended the launch of The Woodland Trust’s Nature Recovery Report, Trees and Woods at the Heart of Nature Recovery. As the title suggests, the report shows the central role trees and woods play in recovering nature in Northern Ireland.  Jim delivered a talk, “Applying Nature Recovery Networks on the Ground in the Belfast Hills”.

“Applying Nature Recovery Networks means that we can identify just where best to plant trees and new woodland to best connect up our woodlands and make them more robust in the face of climate change and habitat loss.”

Jim Bradley, Belfast Hills Partnership Manager

One Million Trees

As part of the One Million Trees project, BHP hosted a number of public events to celebrate National Tree Week. The first of these was “Falls Foliage”; a mid-morning wander through Falls Park. Participants had the opportunity to learn winter tree identification skills and admire the last of the autumn leaves. It is predicted that the beautiful autumnal colours as the seasons change may be lost with a warming climate. Therefore, taking notice of them now is of utmost importance.

The second event was a hedgelaying workshop. Hedgelaying is a traditional process, in use for hundreds of years as a method of containing livestock. It’s a skill and practice that has declined. However, due to the proven benefits for nature and biodiversity hedgelaying and hedgerows are making a comeback. Attendees gained insights and skills into this process thanks to the expert guidance of Tomasz Ciesielski.

More Tree Please

BHP also visited a number of schools and day centres to educate others on the value of trees. Euston Street PS and Edgcumbe Day Care Centre enjoyed working on the ‘Forest in a Box’ project.  This is a hands-on way to get children and people with learning difficulties involved with tree planting. Each box was planted with over 150 oak and hazel seeds in the hopes of creating a “miniature forest”. 

Children from Euston St PS digging into their Forest in a Box

We’re delighted to bring the Forest in a Box project to different schools and groups across Belfast. We will return in one year to boxes full of saplings which will then be planted on the grounds and across the Belfast Hills. This allows young people to better understand the life cycle of a tree as well as leave a lasting legacy at their school. In 20 years’ time they will be able to see the saplings that have grown into young trees and remember they helped to grow and plant them.

Laura Shiels, Belfast Hills Partnership’s Woodland Officer

The project will also be making its way to Education Authority Youth Clubs – Hammer St YC, Fortwilliam YC & Finaghy YC – following National Tree Week 2023.

It wouldn’t be National Tree Week without some trees being planted and so BHP kicked off another season of tree planting at Holy Rosary Nursery. Forty trees were planted in the Forest School Area. This will improve the biodiversity on the school site and provide an area for outdoor learning for the children.

Join us this tree planting season and sign up as a volunteer. Tasks usually take place on Mondays and Thursdays from 10.30am – 1pm. Simply contact our Volunteer Officer, aodhan.o’[email protected]

Follow our Social Media for regular updates on public tree planting events.