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An edible woodland comes to life at Marnham Fields

Volunteers planting trees to create new edible urban woodland

On Saturday 283 volunteers braved the snowy weather to help create an edible community woodland in Ealing. Spirits were high despite the cold, and there were plenty of smiles as we set about planting thousands of new trees.

This is the largest project so far to be delivered through our pioneering partnership with Ealing Council. In total, we’ll be planting 20,000 saplings to transform Marnham Fields, a 9-hectare meadow close to the A40 dual carriageway. Saturday’s target was 10,000, and considering the difficult conditions – tough soil slowed our progress – we were very happy to hit 7,000. The remaining 13,000 trees will be planted at our second community planting event, and with the help of 8 local schools, and at least 5 corporate groups throughout the month.

Until now, Marnham Fields was dominated by scrub with few features of interest, so it lacked appeal as a space for leisure. Its low biodiversity limited its environmental value, too. Working with the Council, we came up with a plan to revitalise the area and boost its value to the local community.

The new woodland will make the park more inviting and attractive. It will offer delicious fresh food for foragers, and opportunities for wildlife-spotting as biodiversity grows. We’re planting 24 native and non-native species, chosen in consultation with local residents. They include trees – edible and non – and large shrubs bearing fruit, nuts and berries. Among them are Swedish whitebeam, dog rose, lime, black walnut, sweet chestnut, strawberry and Turkish hazel.

This mix will offer a generous harvest, as well as resistance to pests and disease. Crucially, the trees have been planted in a way that encourages a rich array of habitats, welcoming to a wide range of wildlife. It will take several years for the woodland to reach maturity, but local people will be able to start foraging within the next year or so.


The community focus of our projects is really important: bringing people into the process of changing their environment often means they gain a sense of ownership and pride that might otherwise be missing. We always ask our volunteers for feedback so we can understand what motivates them and what they like about taking part.

Comments from Saturday’s team included:

The best thing about planting trees is being outdoors and getting fresh air, and the community coming together from near and far.

I really enjoyed the planting of trees. I thought it was an excellent and well organised event and would love to do more voluntary work.

The best thing about planting trees is meeting great people and doing something for the community, where I live.

I wanted to thank you all for this incredible day; it was amazing, thanks a lot.”

It was inspiring and heart-warming to see so many people of varied ages, abilities and backgrounds coming together to change their environment for the better. Among Saturday’s tree-loving helpers were local Scouts, Trees for Cities volunteers, plus volunteers from Sant Nirankari Mission, Chevening Scholars, Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA), New York University (London Campus) and Green Welfare Force, who also fed us all a lovely warm lunch!

London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues and Cllr Julian Bell, Leader of EalingLondon Deputy Mayor for Environment, Shirley Rodrigues, and Cllr Julian Bell help to create new community woodland in Ealing Council, also came along.

It was a pleasure to join so many volunteers helping plant thousands of new trees today. The Mayor wants London to be one of the world’s greenest cities … a first step has been the commitment to provide £750,000 to plant more than 40,000 new London trees this winter, including helping create the new woodland at Marnham Fields.” – Shirley Rodrigues, London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy.

Thanks to the enthusiasm and energy of all our volunteers, this precious space is set to become a haven for people and wildlife alike. As the trees flourish, they’ll offer food for foragers, homes for birds, insects and more, and a chance for local people to spend time among trees – exercising, playing, relaxing or learning about nature.

This project has been kindly funded by Ealing Council, the Mayor of London‘s Tree Programme 2016-17, Heathrow Community Fund’s Communities for Tomorrow, Garfield Weston Foundation, Big Lottery Fund – Celebrate programme, Nineveh Charitable Trust, GoApe, Canopy & StarTesco – Bags of Help and the Fund My Playgreen – Timberland, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation.

Photography: Simon Warren