Small but mighty, the school’s new micro-forest is planted in such a way – using a method developed by world-renowned ecologist, Dr Miyawaki – that is has the potential to grow 10 times faster, be 20 times more biodiverse, and can be up to 30 times better at absorbing carbon compared to more traditional ways of creating woodland, delivering huge benefits for the environment and air quality.
The micro-forest project started almost a year ago at Mount Wise, with the school eager to breathe new life into an overgrown and unused playground area – putting out a plea for help. It came at the right time, as YGS Landscapes sought out somewhere to create Plymouth’s first micro-forest. Paths crossed and the project grew from there. Giving time and abundant energy to the initiative for free, it has been project managed throughout by pillar of the local business community, Nigel Pay.
Support has come from across the city, from volunteers providing time, labour and equipment – including members of Plymouth Albion RFC who gave much-needed muscle and manpower – as well as generous donations to help fund the work. Millfields Inspired, a Stonehouse based charity, backed the project as part of its Widening Horizons schools programme, which supports school aged children and is soon to be delivered in Devonport.
The school now has a newly planted forest, complete with a forest school seating and learning area, to help children study and engage with the environment. To help bring learning to life, YGS Landscapes’ MD, Steve Warren-Brown has penned a children’s book series, illustrated by local artist Steve Evans. The book series is named ‘My Wacky Forest’ and plays on the name of Dr Miyawaki, whose natural planting methodology has inspired this Plymouth project.
The first three books in the My Wacky Forest series feature a lead character Mushi, a ‘fun guy’ mushroom, who introduces young readers to an array of colourful woodland creatures to help convey stories about the natural environment in a fun, informative and entirely unique way. With more stories up Steve’s sleeve, there is yet more to come from Mushi and pals in the future.
The books have been adopted into the curriculum at Mount Wise, so that the new micro-forest, forest school, and books can work hand-in-hand to educate, entertain and empower a new generation of environmentalists. All children received copies of the new books at the tree-planting day, and enjoyed a storytelling session in the forest school area.
A successful start for a project with huge potential for local schools, communities, businesses and indeed the entire environment, there are plans afoot to scale up and branch out across the city. YGS Landscapes plans to create a programme that unites schools, volunteers and businesses seeking to offset carbon and support community projects. The goal is to give every school their own forest, either on their own land, or created in their name within public spaces.
Steve Warren-Brown, MD of YGS Landscapes, said: “I wanted to create Plymouth’s first ever urban micro-forest, and that’s been achieved, with the help of an enthusiastic school, supportive sponsors and generous volunteers. I’m exceptionally proud to have brought my vision and books to life in this way. This is the culmination of much hard work, creativity and passion – and hopefully just the start of a project with huge potential.
“Micro-forests are incredible for our climate and community; they act as a ‘super-lung’ by improving air quality in the area around it – and who wouldn’t want that to be a part of every school? For communities, the advantages are obvious, benefiting the next generation in so many ways, and for businesses looking to offset their carbon and support socially responsible projects, it presents a huge opportunity.”
Helen Jennings, Head of Mount Wise Community Primary School, said: “This has been a match made in heaven. We put out a call to our community to support us in creating an outside learning space, and we now have this incredible urban forest. It’s been an exciting journey with so much learnt along the way, and this really is only the beginning. We want our children and the wider community to get involved, learn more about the environment, and enjoy the forest for generations to come.”
Andy Botterill, Trustee of Millfields Inspired, said: “We were keen to support this project; something that benefits children’s learning, community connections, and helps the environment is the type of initiative that fits perfectly with our objectives. With our Widening Horizons programme expanding into Devonport, we help children learn more about the world of work and possibilities open to them, and this project is a great starting point.”