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Triodos Bank backs South West’s largest new woodland in decades

Avon Needs Trees, a tree-planting charity based in Bristol, has purchased 422 acres of land that will be used to create a new forest. Triodos Bank, which has its UK headquarters in Bristol, provided a £3.85m loan and its Corporate Finance team advised the charity on sourcing repayable capital.

The site at Wick Farm, Compton Dando, will be home to Lower Chew Forest, which together with adjoining woodland, will create the largest new woodland in the South West for a generation. The plans include establishing a new forest of 100,000 trees and shrubs and the creation of complementary habitats, including wetlands, miles of hedgerow and species-rich grassland.

Laura Rumph, senior relationship manager for nature, food and resource at Triodos Bank UK, said: “Our work on models for investing in nature restoration projects means we can take an innovative, flexible approach to supporting projects like these. Recognising that collaboration is key, we were able to find ways for public and private funding to work together, tailoring a bespoke model to allow the project to scale.

“As firm advocates of the critical role the financial system has to play in supporting nature and reversing biodiversity loss, we’re proud to support what is arguably the most extensive charity-driven Biodiversity Net Gain initiative in the UK to date and hope this inspires other projects on this scale in the South West and beyond.”

Lower Chew Forest will offer visitors the chance to spend time in nature and Avon Needs Trees is exploring opportunities for regenerative food production and agroforestry. The forest will also play a role in reducing downstream flooding in local villages, Keynsham and Bristol.

Dave Wood, CEO at Avon Needs Trees, said: “The Lower Chew Forest will have huge significance to our region, particularly as we have just 7.8% woodland cover in the West of England, which is critically low compared to 13.3% average across the whole of the UK.

“Our plans will bring a huge range of benefits to nature and our communities, including helping to tackle the climate emergency, improving biodiversity connectivity and providing a place for people to volunteer, learn and connect with nature.”

First established in 2019, Avon Needs Trees has planted more than 35,000 native trees in the Somerset and Wiltshire countryside. Its overarching objective is to establish woodlands that endure for generations, serving as vital carbon sinks, enhancing local biodiversity and offering natural flood management solutions while providing accessible green spaces.

In addition to the loan from Triodos Bank, the acquisition has been funded through a crowdfunding campaign by Avon Needs Trees, which raised more than £171,000, along with funds from the Forest of Avon through its Trees for Climate land acquisition fund, backed by Defra’s Nature for Climate Fund.