Working in partnership with Charnwood Borough Council, idverde’s Midlands Development Manager, Nicola Clarke, and Horticultural Supervisor, Martin Botham, were delighted to support the Forest Road Gardeners with phase one of their enhancement programme of the wildlife area on the Forest Road Green Belt in Loughborough. The project is being funded from Tesco’s Bags of Help initiative which is administered and managed at the local level by the community charity with a green heart, Groundwork.

The enhancement project involves the thinning of laurel within the wildlife area and replanting it with appropriate trees, shrubs, wildflowers and bulbs in order to increase biodiversity and increase the enjoyment of everyone who uses The Forest Road Green Belt.

The first phase of the enhancement began with the removal of several large, overgrown laurel bushes which were creating a very dense and dark thicket that was having an adverse effect on the biodiversity in the wildlife area, causing it to decline considerably. Members of the local community worked alongside Harry Cook and the Forest Road Gardeners to cut down the large bushes in order to open up the area. Once cleared, the ground was prepared for the planting of deciduous trees, bulbs and wildflowers. The tree and shrub varieties that were purchased were deliberately chosen for their attraction and value to wildlife and included: Mountain Ash, Cherry and Hazel.

The trees were delivered in mid-January, and the Forest Road Gardeners, along with members of the local community and idverde’s Nicola Clarke spent a beautifully sunny, albeit cold, morning planting the eight half-standard trees and 29 hazel shrubs.

Everyone got stuck in and had a great time digging the holes and planting the trees in a soil that was enriched with a well rotted compost. This will help the trees to establish beer and give them the flying start they require. Once planted, the eight half standard trees were also staked to provide support during windy conditions and to ensure that they grow straight.

Having spent the morning planting out the trees, the group were rewarded for their efforts with a lovely cup of tea and homemade cake to celebrate the event.

The Chair of the Forest Road Gardeners, Harry Cook stated, “It is fantastic to see members of the community getting involved with this and enjoying themselves on this beautiful site. The quality of the trees and shrubs sourced by idverde on our behalf is fabulous. We look forward to watching them mature and cannot wait to start planting the bulbs and wildflowers.”

Nicola Clarke from idverde’s Midlands Development Manager also commented, “It is thanks to Tesco Bags of Help and all the local people who voted in-store that it has been possible to get this project off the ground. On behalf of Charnwood Borough Council and the Forest Road Gar­deners we are very grateful.”

Having completed Phase One of the project, the Forest Road Gardeners and local volunteers spent a very cold and wet Saturday morning in early February planting over 2,000 winter aconites and snowdrops, and 400 foxgloves. The snowdrops were planted ‘in the green’, which means that the bulbs are in active growth, having leaves and often flowers. Bulbs planted in this manner establish better and multiply more readily.

Often referred to as harbingers of spring, winter aconites and snowdrops are amongst the very first bulbs to emerge at the beginning of the year, bringing cheer from mid to late January. It is because these plants flower so early that they are of great value to wildlife as they provide a much-needed nectar source for hungry bumblebee queens and other pollinating insects that are emerging following their winter hibernation.

A cold, wet Saturday in early April saw the enthusiastic volunteers start phase 3 of the project, planting over 1,000 young wildflowers. The flowers included red campion, wild primroses and cowslips, which were planted along the brook on the Forest Road Green Belt. In addition, over 2,000 native English bluebell bulbs ‘in the green’ were also planted underneath the canopy.

Despite the poor weather, the volunteers had a great time working in groups to get the plants into the ground. A hot cup of tea and several slices of homemade cake were the welcome reward for all the hard work.

A few days later, students from Rawlins Academy in Quorn pitched in to help with the final stage of theForest Road Greenbelt Area enhancement project.

The students joined the regular Forest Road Greenbelt volunteers, and idverde’s Horticultural Development Manager, Nicola Clarke, for an afternoon planting two cyclamen varieties: hederifolium and cyclamen coum. Cyclamen hederifolium flowers in autumn/early winter, whilst cyclamen coum flowers in late winter/early spring. Despite their very dainty and fragile looks, cyclamen are very robust little plants that range in colour from deep magenta through to a wide variety of softer pinks, to pure white. They are also valuable sources of nectar at a time of year when there are a lot fewer resources available for pollination insects to feed on.

The planting event was the final part of the Forest Road Gardeners Wildlife Enhancement Project on the Forest Road Green Belt. The Forest Road Gardeners would like to express their sincere thanks to everyone involved in making the project a success. The idverde team throughly enjoyed the opportunity to work with so many enthuaistic and dedicated volunteers on this project.