Severn Trent plants 300,000 trees in Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Forest project

27th November 2023

Severn Trent is off to a flying start in a bid to help deliver a carbon neutral legacy for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games - after planting more than 300,000 trees in Commonwealth Forests across the region.

The water company was the Official Nature and Carbon Neutral Partner for the huge sporting extravaganza that saw competitors travel to Brum from across the globe.

As part of a drive to make Birmingham 2022 the most sustainable Commonwealth Games yet Severn Trent, alongside Games organisers, signed up for the Commonwealth Forest project – a bid to create 2,022 acres of new woodlands.

The company has now reached a green milestone by planting over 300,000 trees at its own sites and through partnerships with private landowners. Separately it has also created 72 Tiny Forests, including in communities and at schools, with both schemes helping towards a Severn Trent target of planting 1.3m trees by 2025.

The news was announced during National Tree Week, which runs until December 3 and sees conservationists, volunteers and tree-lovers come together for planting events across the UK. 

Adrienne Bennett, Forestry Creation Project Manager at Severn Trent, said: “We have planted 301,000 trees for our Commonwealth Forests over 465 acres which is a fantastic achievement so far. It is something to be really proud of.

“But planting the trees is only a small part in the process of creating a new woodland. There is a lot of work involved to get to that stage - and even more afterwards to maintain and care for the new woodlands which boost biodiversity.

“But we are well on the way to doing what we wanted to achieve – create a lasting legacy from the Commonwealth Games and offsetting its carbon footprint.”

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Forests have been planted at Severn Trent sites across the region, as well as multiple other sites including Woodgate Valley County Park in Birmingham, Hope Coppice in Solihull, Aldridge Airport in Walsall.

Each forest features predominantly native UK-grown broadleaf species trees which, over time, will remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – helping offset part of the Games’ projected carbon footprint. This process will be verified by the UK Woodland Carbon Code.

Adrienne grew up in Rotherham and says woodlands were not exactly on her doorstep.

But a childhood love of nature and the outdoors saw her develop a passion for trees and forests and she later became an ecologist after university, working for both Forestry England and the Forestry Commission.

Adrienne, who joined Severn Trent a year ago, said:  “I have always loved nature and trees, which probably grew out of my love for watching David Attenborough programmes as a child.”

“You can really lose yourself in a woodland or forest, there’s a real sense of space and isolation, plus the idea you are surrounded by trees, some of which have been there for hundreds of years is very special.”

The hard work that goes into creating a new forest may not be clear to some, she said.

“Planting a tree is the culmination of lot of hard work - but that is when the real hard work starts,” said Adrienne.

“There are woodland pests, diseases, extreme weather events plus ever-increasing deer numbers, grey squirrel damage and even vandalism. There is a lot that goes into woodland management.”

The Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Forests boost biodiversity, including improving soil quality, plus they create new green social spaces for communities.

Adrienne said: “That is what we are creating here, places for people and families to enjoy while also helping the environment by reducing the carbon footprint of the Games.”

Severn Trent is also encouraging more landowners to come forward to sign up for the scheme, with the aim of creating many more Legacy Forests in the future.

To be eligible they must have at least ten acres of land available for the fully-funded scheme, which will be co-managed over the following 35 years by Severn Trent.

Adrienne said: “We have a massive target, but the amount of new woodland we have created so far in the densely populated Midlands is worth celebrating.”