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Trees for Bees and Better Health - Follaton Arboretum Improvements

23 June 2021

Young trees planted in Follaton Arboretum, which will form a new 'Trees for Bees' Copse.

2021 marks 25 years since Follaton Arboretum in Totnes was first laid out to provide a peaceful haven for wildlife and local people to enjoy. To celebrate this special anniversary, South Hams District Council have worked together with local community groups to make some wellbeing and wildlife-welcoming changes, including planting wildflower meadows and a 'trees for bees' copse.

A positive step forward in the Council's commitment to improving biodiversity across the District, the new planting will introduce an abundance of species and create new habitats to support diverse wildlife. New information signs and better access for wheelchairs and buggies will help people to connect with the wildlife and enjoy the space even more. And eco-friendly benches and bins made from recycled plastics will make sure there's a comfortable spot to sit, relax and make the most of the well-being boost that nature offers. 

Over the years, the Arboretum has been well stocked with a wide range of trees, including specimens from the UK and around the world, trees with health benefits, trees with edible fruits and nuts and an array of memorial trees. This has been added to recently with the establishment of a new 'trees for bees' copse, containing species that are known to be good for insect pollinators, including crab apple, hawthorn, dog-rose, hazel and sweet chestnut. 

One of the community groups that is active in the Arboretum, The Incredible Edible, has been adding to the fruit trees in the community orchard, and another, the Forest Garden Group has planted, amongst others, some Monkey Puzzle trees.

Two new areas of wildflower meadow are being established at the entrance to the Arboretum. This has involved stripping off the old turf and sowing in a 'summer bee mix' of wildflowers and grasses, adding life and colour to the grassland. Included in the mix are cornflower, corn marigold, common poppy and viper's bugloss which all help to support a diverse mix of insects. 

Cllr Jonathan Hawkins, South Hams District Council Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing and Leisure said: "Spaces like the arboretum are vital for the local community in so many ways. By taking real action to encourage more diverse wildlife, we're taking a positive step to enhance biodiversity locally.

"The health benefits of getting out and surrounding yourself with nature are well documented. That's why we're making this a space that even more people can access to reap the health and wellbeing benefits. Buggy and wheel-chair friendly paths will make it so much easier for people of all ages to get closer to nature and improve wellbeing. Finally, by adding more information signs local people can find out more about what is around them and discover just what a special place we have here in Totnes.

"This is a much loved area for residents and families, so I am delighted that we are celebrating in this way." 

Further improvements will continue over the coming months to complete the 25-year anniversary plans. These include:

Community projects - A number of groups are already active in the Arboretum, including The Incredible Edible, the Forest Garden Group and SANDS. The enhancement programme means more opportunities for local people to join in with a range of conservation projects and other environmental activities. With so much interest in being active in the great outdoors, a new Friends of the Arboretum group will be created to help look after the site for years to come. If you're interested in volunteering with the 'Friends' group please contact parklifesw@gmail.com

Access for all - Work has started in preparing plans to resurface the main zig-zag access track to make it more suitable for people with wheelchairs, mobility scooters, push chairs and buggies. The path to the top was carefully engineered to allow people with mobility impairments to access the top, but over time the track has eroded and will receive a new surface to allow wheels to turn more smoothly.

Benches and bins - New benches will give visitors a spot to rest, relax and to enjoy some spectacular views. In keeping with the commitment to tackling climate and biodiversity emergencies, the Council will be using recycled plastic products for benches and waste bins.

Signs and information - The area was originally planted as a formal arboretum and is home to a wide variety of trees. For example, as you wind around the first two bends in the track there are around a dozen different varieties of oak trees planted, including scarlet, pin and fern leaved oaks. Labelling the trees will help people identify the different species and give more information.

Ongoing management on invasive scrub - Control and management of invasive scrub has been taking place, including in areas originally planted by Trees for Health. These trees have also been pruned and the signs promoting their health benefits will be updated too.  

Follaton Arboretum is owned and managed by South Hams District Council. The improvement programme is being coordinated with the help of ParkLife SW, a not-for-profit social enterprise. If you're interested in volunteering with the 'Friends' group please contact parklifesw@gmail.com

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