Background

A little about our origins, purpose & mission

Lewis Clarke – Wikipedia Commons

Why does TUF exist?

This aerial view shows the need clearly, as does the Ward Canopy Map where you can zoom in on our area. Thanet has one of the lowest percentages of tree canopy cover in the UK.

Mission

Our mission is to improve that, which, incidentally also helps to offset global warming and extend the leisure opportunities for Thanet citizens. Its continuing mission is to plant trees across the area in parks, community gardens, public areas and beyond.

History

TUF was originally set up as ITTWI – Isle of Thanet Trees & Woods Initiative, when a number community groups came together in 2019. They were Thanet Community Forest School, Colourful Margate and The Sunken Gardens, Westgate. They were successful in applying for and winning grant funding from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund (Forestry Commission). ITTWI restructured into a CIC (Community Interest Company) in September to allow it to continue long after the original UTCF project is complete. Planting started in 2020 and continues. The Covid-19 epidemic made its work, like most things, challenging and the organisation has gone through a number of changes. This culminated in new board members and a change of name in late April 2021 and so TUF – Thanet Urban Forest was born.

The Story So Far

(Karen McKenzie has slightly re-written this article which first appeared in the local press)

Eighteen months ago Stephanie Nsom, from Colourful Margate, Luke Evans from Thanet Community Forest School, Peter Hasted from the Sunken Garden Society and Thanet Councillor Ash Ashbee, got together to bid for a £500,000 Forestry Commission Urban Tree Challenge fund little believing they would get it.  But they did and the Isle of Thanet Trees & Woods Initiative (ITTWI) was born. 

Peter Hasted then accepted a full-time position in the project, selecting and planning the planting schemes and managing the work. The Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF) only pays out once the work is done.  This inevitably leads to cash flow problems.  Thanet Community Forest School could subsidise some of it, but not all, so donations were needed to bridge the gap as trees don’t come cheap! The new owners of Manston Airport, RiverOak Strategic Partners (RSP) kindly agreed to help fund the start-up costs. They initially donated £20,000, and have made further donations since then. Frances Tophill, celebrity gardener, agreed to become the patron of the organisation.  The dream was becoming reality.

The first tree was planted in Dane Park with the help of volunteers, quickly followed by 99 more. The next phase of planting was The Big Dig; 284 trees planted in one day at Dane Valley Green, by Peter and more than 300 volunteers from the community. This was swiftly followed by 285 trees at the Thanet Community Forest School and 6 trees at the Sunken Garden at Westbrook.

In July 2020, Luke Evans decided to leave the project and ITTWI became a Community Investment Company (CIC), which allows it to raise funds and act commercially for the benefit of the community.  And the existing UTCF project in conjunction with Forestry Commission and Thanet District Council was still very much alive.

As soon as it was Covid safe to do so, Spring and Summer 2020 saw the Community out and about again watering the trees with the help of Quex Estates, who supplied a Water Tanker for Dane Valley Green and Dane Park, the two biggest sites.

But then the planting projects for Autumn/Winter of 2020/21 were disrupted by Covid once again and volunteers were no longer allowed to help. But Peter and a small team including Karen McKenzie, Tree Warden for Broadstairs & St Peters, have managed to plant 440 more.  Tivoli & Hartsdown Parks in Margate now enjoy 250 new trees, 50 have gone in to Westover Gardens, Broadstairs and 50 at George V Avenue, Westbrook. In total, by the end of its first two planting seasons, Thanet is already benefitting from 1,945 new trees, with the remaining 68 trees in the Urban Tree Challenge Fund to follow later this year.

In April ITTWI got TUF.  More precisely it has become the Thanet Urban Forest CIC (TUF) and has a new Board of Directors.  Peter Hasted is still managing the project as a Director and has been joined by Bo Beolens, Karen McKenzie and Sean Cheasley.

With a new Board who are also focused on training, education and employment, it is proposed and hoped that primary and secondary schools will get on board as soon as they can, so that future generations will be able to plant and maintain some trees in their local area and across the whole of Thanet. Planting from seed is one way of getting youngsters to appreciate how things grow and mature. Remember the saying: from tiny acorns mighty oaks will grow.

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NB If you or your school would be interested in any aspects of tree planting projects, or would like to donate, or if you are a local company who can see the benefit of linking to TUF, please contact Karen. You can also find us on Facebook by searching Thanet Urban Forest.  Our website, ThanetUrbanForest.org is just about to go live too.  Look out for trees popping up near you  it could be just about anywhere in Thanet.