The Forest of Flowers project near York has created 74 acres of new woodland and wildflower meadows, with the sole aim to provide a thriving natural sanctuary for wildlife.
The land, previously a mixed arable and sheep farm, was re-purposed in 2015 and with the support of the Woodland Trust and other partners, over 42,000 trees and shrubs were planted, alongside 35 native wildflower species. This is part of a vision to create a thriving ecosystem to benefit pollinators, birds and a diverse range of native wildlife. The project also supports:
Carbon capture to reduce the effects of climate change.
Prevention of flooding in the local area.
UK wildflower population, providing seeds from the meadows to other sites nationwide.
The project has also involved the creation of 17 ponds to provide much-needed wetland habitat in the area to benefit waterfowl and amphibians such as the great crested newt.
The Forest of Flowers site is already a flourishing habitat and a haven for wildlife, with more and more species finding a home here as the land returns to nature.
Hello! We're Alwyn and Tom. We live together on the Forest of Flowers site in Huby, York. We both love wildlife and want to do what we can to support our fantastic flora and fauna, and help others to do the same.
Here's a little bit about us...
Alwyn has always had a passion for nature and gardening, including growing his own vegetables as a child. He studied Biology at Oxford University, achieved a Diploma in Horticulture with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, before working with the WWT London Wetland Centre.
In 2015, Alwyn returned to his family farm in Huby near York. Based on his botanical expertise and love of nature, Alwyn began an ambitious project to create 74 acres of new woodland and wildflower meadows. By the end of 2016, the plantation was complete and nature could do its thing! Since then, the land has changed rapidly, with trees and wildflowers all thriving, offering a haven for wildlife.
Tom joined Alwyn to take on this adventure with him and help look after the trees, bees, seeds, and everything else!
It's a busy place - on top of the woodland, we want to become as self-sufficient as possible. We grow our own organic fruit and veg, keep goats and ex-battery chickens, and bees for delicious wildflower honey.
We're thrilled with how the Forest of Flowers habitat is flourishing and have lots planned for the years to come. Watch this space and we hope we can inspire and help you to support nature in your own way.
Alwyn Craven and Tom Hook
The Forest of Flowers Method
The site uses a method known to increase biodiversity and maximise the potential of the land for nature. Devised by Richard Scott at Landlife, this technique takes a scientific and evidence-based approach to habitat creation.
The steps involved at the Forest of Flowers site in 2015 were:
Top Soil Inversion - reversing the soil profile leaving the subsoil on the surface. Young trees establish better in ground prepared this way because there is little weed competition and the open soil structure encourages rooting down into the fertile soil below. Conditions are also ideal for establishing wildflowers around the trees as they grow.
Sowing Wildflowers - We sowed a mixture of 35 native wildflower species, including annuals and perennials, making the most of the newly inverted soil to offer a vital food source and habitat for insects.
Tree Plantation - With the support of partners and the local community, we planted over 42,000 native broadleaf trees and shrubs amongst the newly sown wildflowers.
With over 35 species of native wildflowers now flourishing across the Forest of Flowers site, we have an abundance of seed which we collect and offer to customers. This raises funds to support the project while also enabling anyone to do their bit for nature by creating their own wildflower patch, no matter the size.
We offer seed mixes as well as single species such as:
Bird's foot trefoil
We are seeing a rapid increase in the number of insects, including butterflies and bees, due to the abundance of wildflowers.
We carry out regular monitoring, such as a weekly butterfly survey during the summer months in association with Butterfly Conservation. In 2020, Forest of Flowers had over 2,800 sightings - the highest number of any site surveyed in Yorkshire. Species most abundant are:
Bees are vital pollinators and a significant component in the natural ecosystem. Beekeeping is a big part of our project, allowing us to:
Support our wildflowers and trees by pollination, enabling them to reproduce so that the habitat can develop and thrive.
Encourage and support bees in the area, currently with 12 hives.
Produce delicious and organic wildflower honey, which we can offer to customers in the local community.
The UK has lost 90% of our wetland habitats in the last 100 years due to unsustainable farming and urbanisation.
At the Forest of Flowers site, we have created 17 ponds, many in close proximity to one another in order to replicate a small wetland area. These ponds offer a safe and high quality habitat for many species including insects, amphibians and water birds.