Couple’s mission to plant 100,000 trees in Harrogate district


Last updated Sep 30, 2020
Helen and Christopher Neave from Make It Wild

Husband and wife Christopher and Helen Neave are on a mission to plant 100,000 trees in the Harrogate district before 2030 — and they say the biodiversity benefits for everybody living here will be profound.

Their business Make It Wild started 10 years ago when they bought a 26-acre plot of land near Kirk Hammerton.

Helen told the Stray Ferret they were inspired after planting 20,000 trees on the land. She said after waiting five years for the trees to grow, the amount of wildlife that came was “absolutely incredible”.

She said:

“It was an oasis of nature with insects, birds and mammals.”

The site is now home to a vast array of wildlife and known locally as Sylvan Nature Reserve.

Helen was a consultant surgeon in the NHS for most of her career and said that what started out as a semi-retirement project for the couple has taken off massively.

Make It Wild has since bought more sites in Nidderdale including 111 acres at Bank Woods and a 44-acre neighbouring site known as Dowgill Grange.

Working with the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Commission, Make It Wild has already planted more than 16,000 trees across both sites and this year Bank Woods was designated a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation.

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To fund the tree planting, Make It Wild sells tree dedications for weddings or birthdays, carbon offsetting for businesses and eco-friendly products including animal habitat boxes.

Helen added:

“People are always building houses, roads and runways so we thought we’d do our little bit to give some space back to nature. It’s captured people’s imagination.

“With lockdown people are appreciating how important it is to connect with nature. We’ve lost so much of that as a society.”

The Woodland Trust says trees provide crucial habitat for much of the UK’s wildlife. However, we lag behind other European countries when it comes to woodland. 13% of the UK’s land area is woodland whereas France and Germany have 31% and 32% respectively.

Make it Wild’s mission statement is to “give space back to nature” and several local companies have partnered with it to plant more trees. These include Full Circle Funerals, which is paying for a tree to be planted for every family it supports whilst off-setting the carbon of its funerals.

Helen said Make It Wild is on the lookout for more land in the Harrogate district to reach its target of 100,000 trees.

Helen said anyone who owns a piece of land can do their bit.

She said:

“Even if you can’t plant hundreds of trees, just plant one in your garden that will attract wildlife. Everybody can do their little bit to help.”

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