Nottingham has some truly green credentials – both in its attitude and ambition as well as its physical make-up, with a quarter of the city made up of parks and open spaces, meaning it’s one of the greenest cities in Britain.

Altogether, the city has over 400 hectares of natural and semi-natural open spaces including nature reserves, woodlands, river corridors and post-industrial land, many of which are accessible to the public and free to enjoy.

The City Council manages around 100,000 individual trees, along with over 100 hectares of woods. It also manages many parks, from the largest – Wollaton Park at 511 acres – to the smallest at just 0.15 acres on Commercial Road. Nottingham has more ‘Green Flag’ parks than anywhere else outside London, denoting well-maintained green spaces with the highest possible environmental standards.

The council has plans to help the green parts of the city grow and flourish – with an ambitious pledge to plant 50,000 trees by 2023. This is not just because more trees make for a more beautiful city, but because of what they can do to help soak up harmful pollution, increase biodiversity and lower the temperature of the city:

Soaking up harmful pollution – A typical fully grown tree can absorb around 21kg of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. Over a lifetime of 100 years, one tree could absorb around a tonne of CO2. As well as helping the city reduce the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere and so help to combat the harmful effects of climate change, trees provide a range of other benefits such as providing cooling shade in extreme temperatures, intercepting rainfall, reducing flooding and soil erosion – all adding to help the city be more resilient to current and future extreme weather events.

Increasing biodiversity – A mature oak tree can support a staggering 2,300 different species including birds, insects, fungi, lichens and mammals. Therefore, planting more trees also help increase biodiversity, with green spaces forming important linking corridors or stepping stones for wildlife as well as providing a valuable resource for human residents and visitors. During the pandemic the benefits of contact with green open spaces for human health came to the forefront – also helping to foster greater appreciation and support for protecting and enhancing our natural environment.

Lowering the temperature of the city – Healthy urban trees are known to have a cooling benefit, not only providing cool shade but also releasing water vapour, reflecting more solar radiation and storing less energy than many artificial surfaces such as concrete or tarmac. This will become increasingly important as UK heatwaves like the recent high temperatures happen more often, last longer and become more intense. Urban areas generate, trap and store heat which creates localised warming. During heatwaves this increase in urban temperatures can not only make people feel uncomfortable, but for vulnerable groups such as children or the elderly, it can cause exhaustion, respiratory illness and heat stroke.

Taking action now – The 2021/22 tree planting season saw Nottingham Green Guardians and partners plant over 10,000 trees across the city towards the 50,000 target. Volunteering sessions have also included five Miyawaki-style forests in urban areas.  Everyone can help do their bit later this year when the council’s second Big Tree Giveaway is launched, with details on how to register released in September.

The council is also taking opportunities to plant trees in the city’s streets and neighbourhoods – including as part of its transformation of streets around the Broad Marsh area. A ‘green heart’ forms the centrepiece of the new vision for the former shopping centre site, creating a wildlife-rich green space which will permeate the whole site. And trees will be planted in all wards across the city as part of the Government-funded Streets for People scheme that’s currently being rolled out.

Portfolio Holder for Environment, Energy & Waste, Cllr Sally Longford, said: “Trees are the green lungs of our city and it’s vitally important we protect what we have but also plant even more, which is why our pledge for 50,000 more trees by 2023 is so very important.

“This is to not only help remove CO2 from the atmosphere and make our city more resilient to the effects of climate change, but also bring joy and pleasure from being around such amazing and beautiful natural wonders. We saw how important our parks and open spaces became during the pandemic to help people with their physical and mental health. I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has already got involved in tree planting and I hope more will take part in the next Big Tree Giveaway. After all, Nottingham is famous for Sherwood Forest, so the more trees, the merrier!”