Ben Williams of Earthwatch Europe plants a tree in Littlemore Hospital's Tiny Forest
Ben Williams of Earthwatch Europe plants a tree in Littlemore Hospital’s Tiny Forest. Photo: Carey Newson / Centre for Sustainable Healthcare 2021. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0).

The NHS Forest gained a ‘Tiny Forest’ this month, established at Littlemore Mental Health Centre in Oxford with our partners at Earthwatch Europe. Healthcare staff, patients and local apprentices helped plant the 600 native trees, which are expected to attract hundreds of new animals and plants to the hospital grounds in the years ahead.

Tiny Forests are small, dense, fast-growing woodlands, based on an innovative forest management method developed in the 1970s by Dr Akira Miyawaki. The Tiny Forest at Littlemore, grown on an area the size of a tennis court, was supported by Oxford University’s Green Templeton College and MINI Electric. The woodland is a tribute to Professor Jeff Burley, a renowned forestry scientist who initiated fundraising at the college to provide half the trees at the site through the NHS Forest.

Volunteer ‘tree keepers’ at Littlemore will help to care for and monitor the Tiny Forest as it grows, collecting information that will enable researchers to assess its impact on carbon capture and biodiversity. The hospital is the second NHS Forest site to have started a Tiny Forest this year, with West Berkshire Community Hospital in Thatcham having planted the first in November.

Miriam Dobson, Green Space for Health Outreach Officer at the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare said: “We’re very excited that Littlemore Hospital have planted a Tiny Forest. This style of planting has multiple benefits for the natural environment, from carbon storage to biodiversity support. We are really looking forward to seeing the progress as it grows and want to thank Earthwatch, MINI and Green Templeton College for helping bring this idea to life.”

Ben Williams, Tiny Forest Project Manager with Earthwatch Europe said: “We are in our third season of planting Tiny Forests, and it’s great to see them taking root in healthcare settings as well as community locations. We are excited to be working with NHS organisations and the NHS Forest, to explore the potential for Tiny Forests to support health outcomes across the UK.”

Nick Broughton, Chief Executive at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said trees planted across the trust’s sites absorb over 38 tons of carbon annually – helping to offset Oxford Health’s overall carbon footprint and contribute to the NHS’s aim to be the world’s first net zero health service.

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