Each year we are obliged to submit an annual report to Companies House along with our accounts for regulatory purposes. It  provides us with an opportunity to showcase  Roots for the Future’s activities and the benefits provided to the community and the local environment over the last year.

Roots for the Future CIC brings people together to plant trees near to where they live. Our mission is to engage communities in tree planting to cultivate a lasting legacy of environmental sustainability. We envisage a future where communities are inspired to implement nature-based solutions to climate change. This report reflects our activities in our sixth year of operation.

Year ending June 2023 saw Roots for the Future further our offer of ecotherapies for a deeper impact in the areas of health and wellbeing. After the global health crisis of COVID 19 running alongside the global climate crisis, from 2021 we started to diversify and extend our intended impact to improving the health and wellbeing of communities in and around our borough of Waverley.

Community garden

We were approached by Waverley Borough Council to help to deliver a new community garden project in Godalming. Eashing Cemetery Community Garden and Orchard brings people together from Godalming and surrounding villages to enjoy and enhance their local green space. The new community garden is at Eashing Cemetery on Frankly Rd and everyone is invited to help preserve its natural habitat and to enjoy its peace and tranquillity. Eashing cemetery community garden and orchard is a new initiative for Roots for the Future with partners Godalming Town Council, Waverley Borough Council, Thakeham Homes and COPSE – Community Orchards Projects South East. The garden was launched on July 16th 2022 with a butterfly count and preparing the soil for new plants.

Just down the road from the cemetery, Waverley borough council has been regenerating the housing estate on Ockford Ridge with redevelopment and restoration work. The Thakeham Group were chosen by Waverley to build the new houses on the estate. As well as the new homes, the group is investing in a whole host of additional community benefits for the area. Supporting the establishment of Eashing Cemetery Community Garden and Orchard is one of those benefits.

Running a community garden furthers our impact in the areas of health and wellbeing. Community gardening has multiple health and social benefits. There is lots of scientific research that shows not only being in green space helps us, but that gardening can positively contribute to our quality of life. Gardening can play a key role in promoting mental well-being and can be used as a preventive health measure. Volunteering in a setting with a close connection with nature can make us healthier and happier and has profound effects on people with mental health issues or who are suffering loneliness.

Experts are encouraging us to think of our gardens as mindful spaces. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a garden of their own or might not know how to approach gardening in the one they have. Community gardening in areas of social housing or areas of higher than average social and economic disadvantage can help to address wellbeing inequalities. Community gardening is a great way to address the two global emergencies: the COVID 19 pandemic and the subsequent health issues it has caused, and the climate and biodiversity loss emergencies.

As one of the ecotherapies Roots for the Future offers, the community garden introduced us to working with East Waverley’s social prescribers who sign post people to the garden for their mental and physical wellbeing.

School events

Research shows that children who spend time outdoors learn to love nature and grow up wanting to protect it. Sadly today’s children are spending more time indoors than ever before. A 2016 study schowed that 75% of children in the UK spent less time outside than prison inmates! This risks them becoming disconnected from the natural world. Ensuring children’s regular access, the outdoors and nature is essential for their physical and mental wellbeing. Most of us can agree, our happiest memories of being children are the times that were spent outside. It’s also essential for the health of the environment.

As Sir David Attenborough puts it “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”

All our school events this year were at the community garden.

St Mark and All Saints School in Godalming

Deepening our relationship with St Mark and All Saints school in Godalming, we held some bulb planting workshops with two of the Key Stage 2 classes. The school’s enthusiasm for spending a lesson outside doing something wonderful for the environment makes them a great partner for Roots for the Future.

St Mark and All Saints school take their outdoor learning seriously with gardening club and forest school sessions. They even have a small holding on the school grounds.

Uniform Groups

In managing the community garden, Roots for the Future has developed its links with local Guide and Scout groups and held several after school plantings at the community garden with Brownies, Rainbows, Guides, Cubs and Beavers.

Health and Wellbeing

The pandemic forced us to assess other ways Roots for the Future could have a positive impact on our community. This led to the decision to add a more formal health and wellbeing element to our work. One of these elements is leading the community garden events. Another is offering guided tree walks, identifying trees and learning all the ways trees help us to live a healthy life. These walks have elements of mindfulness, with slow walking opening up all the senses to the woodland around us and with guided mindful breathing.

In August 2022, we were invited by Godalming Town Council to lead a guided and mindful walk around Broadwater park, identifying trees and discussing their importance as part of their festival Staycation. In the blazing heat (one of the plus 30c days that summer) we spent a happy couple of hours slightly cooler than most as the temperature is at least 7 degrees cooler under tree canopy than in the sunshine. These walks share our love and respect for trees as well as amazing facts about their benefits, not only to the health of our planet, but to our wellbeing too. Our quiet and mindful walking, with fewer people out than usual due to the heat, meant lots of wildlife came out to see us.

Planting trees for the future is essential, however we must also protect our established, mature and ancient trees who have the most effect as carbon sinks. It is our intention with these informative walks that it will contribute to our work to protect the trees our community already has.

Forest Bathing

Forest Bathing, is a mindful walk amongst trees, deliberately taking in your surroundings and connecting with the nature around you. It is an immersive experience, opening up all your senses to noticing the sights, sounds, smell and textures of the forest. By slowing down your body and mind, it is a way to destress, relax and boost health and wellbeing. Francesca from Roots for the Future is now a certified forest bathing guide, having trained with the Forest Bathing Institute. We will now deliver forest bathing sessions to help with the mental health crisis alongside the climate crisis. We are in discussions with health organisations about collaborations and we are working towards becoming an organisation that can offer green social prescriptions.

Royal Surrey County Hospital tree planting

We are delighted we were able to give staff, patients and visitors to Royal Surrey County Hospital the opportunity to plant trees as part of National Tree Week 2022. On 1st December we held a tree planting drop-in event in collaboration with Medirest and the hospital Trust. To boost carbon offsetting at the hospital, staff came out and volunteers from University of Surrey Students’ Union joined us throughout the chilly, foggy day to plant hedgerow of 250 native saplings, and four larger trees. We even managed to persuade passers-by to get stuck in to create more biodiversity at the site and help the hospital reach its sustainability targets.

The new hedge of native saplings was planted outside the new Guildford Borough Council Ward, adjacent to Gill Avenue. Four larger, semi-established trees were planted in front of the ward, adjacent to Egerton Rd. Guildford Ward is a purpose built Covid-19 isolation ward which was opened in July 2020. Tree planting is not only one of the simplest and most enjoyable actions humankind can take to confront climate change, trees also help us to feel better. Evidence shows that if a patient can see a tree outside their window, they recover faster and need fewer pain killers. We hope planting and seeing the trees brings the incredible staff and all the patients at the hospital some joy.

Corporate events

The community garden has given us the opportunity to hold corporate events at shorter notice. With tree planting, lining up the land, trees and financing can take many months. However we are able to offer team work parties when we are approached when they are held at the garden. We have worked with Thakeham Homes three times since the garden was launched and the estate agents, Chantries and Pewleys have also joined us.

Wider community benefits

Roots for the Future’s workshops act as a call to action to enable people to do something positive together that benefits their community, as well as for the good of humanity. Tree planting has multiple benefits to those who take part and to the wider community. Trees are amazing, not only do they provide us with the oxygen we breathe and absorb and store the carbon emitted from vehicles and industrial activity, they also mitigate other climate change related issues such as flooding because water sinks into soil under trees at 70 times the rate it sinks under grass. Trees absorb pollution and filter particulates out of the air by trapping them on their leaves and bark, helping to improve air quality.

Trees provide communities with many social benefits. Green spaces make us feel better and more resilient to stress. Studies show that when people are recovering in hospital, if they can see a tree outside their window, they get better more quickly than those who can’t. And it is reported that trees cut crime and anti-social activity.

With a world urbanising fast, and most of us now living in cities rather than in rural places, it is inevitable that green space will be increasingly occupied by development. Tree planting is an important part of development, not only for all the reasons laid out above, but also because as the temperatures rise each summer, we need trees to cool our towns and cities. Trees shade our offices, homes, car parks and streets by breaking up the heat traps generated by concrete and by releasing water vapour into the air through their leaves.

According to economists, trees are one of the world’s most cost-effective carbon sinks. Climate scientists have stated that planting trees is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of sequestering CO2. As trees grow, they absorb and store CO2 emissions and therefore woodland plays an important role as a natural carbon sink. As well as planting, communities should also commit to keeping the mature trees we have already have, and developers should endeavour to plan new builds around those trees.

Nature.com journalist Lisa Palmer sums it up “The world’s forests absorb a substantial amount of the carbon dioxide emissions that humans produce, and this has a tremendous social and economic value. Forests will continue to be valued for what they can do to alleviate climate change and support biodiversity. However, to comprehend the scale of how trees can capture the world’s excess carbon and increase tree cover, research indicates we must focus on local and municipal solutions that are sustainable and benefit local people, natural systems and economies.”

Online search queries related to “climate anxiety” defined as feelings of distress about the impacts of climate change – have risen globally, particularly among children and young people. We focus our attention on children and young people in our tree planting and increasing biodiversity activities. We hope to give them practical activities and knowledge on how we can contribute to solutions to the climate crisis, as well as showing them how important it is to spend time in and subsequently protect natural spaces.

Community outreach

We have engaged with a number of community groups and service providers in order to organise gardening events and tree planting workshops. This includes churches, uniform groups, university student unions, neighbourhood groups and parenting groups.

We held a stall at Godalming Green Gala which deepened our brand recognition with the local community and led to further collaborations with other non-profit organisations.

Funders

We have had funding from Community Foundation Trust, Surrey County Council LoCase Fund, Voluntary Action Southwest Surrey, Surrey Climate Commission, Godalming Round Table. The community helped us out with a GoFundMe crowd sourcing campaign. We have been commissioned for our work by Waverley Borough Council, Thakeham Homes and Medirest.

Engaging institutions

We used our fifth year to deepen our relationships with many individuals from relevant institutions in our community and widen our network. This included Waverley Borough Council, Godalming Town Council, Surrey County Council, Surrey University Student Union,

We worked extremely closely with Godalming Town Council and Waverley Borough Council delivering the community garden.

We continued to build corporate social responsibility links with local small and medium sized businesses establishing mutually beneficial relationships. We have established relationships with other environmental non-profit organisations and are in discussions with them about potential collaborations. We also built more links with more schools to scope out planting opportunities that complement the school curriculum.

Awareness raising

Using a mixture of offline and online communications, we raised awareness of our activities and how to get involved. We use local press, including a county wide newspaper and more local newspapers and magazines, to celebrate our achievements. We continue to build our online presence through a mixture of social media accounts and communicating to our audiences through our website and blog.

Corporate support

We are delighted that Chantries & Pewleys have chosen to continue to collaborate with Roots for the Future for a corporate responsibility partnership. We were commissioned by Medirest to plant a hedgerow and semi-established trees at the Royal Surrey County Hospital. Thakeham Homes has commissioned our work at Eashing Cemetery Community Garden and Orchard.

The numbers

We planted at total of 254 trees during our sixth year of operation. The number of trees we planted this year was lower on account of our focus on delivering community workshops at the garden after its launch in July 2022.

We engaged hundreds of people through our tree planting, school workshops, gardening events, guided tree walks and corporate events.

Our engagement with stakeholders has been at a mostly hyper-local level and the following have been engaged through a mixture of one-to-one meetings, email outreach and phone conversations. While our preference is for one-to-one meetings where we convey our mission and vision more easily, and gain valuable feedback from the stakeholder how best to engage target participants to reach our goals, this often hasn’t been possible during the pandemic.

Town Councils

We worked with Godalming town council officers and councillors on organising community events. Town Councillors are always invited to participate and advise us as we organised the events.

Borough Council

The borough council continues to work with us on planting locations. The tree officer advises us on areas with the most need for trees and the community development officer advises us on areas of the most need for social cohesion. We also work with the green spaces manager and the community development manager. Borough councillors are always invited to participate and advise us as we organised the events. Our work delivering a community garden project in Godalming. Eashing cemetery community garden and orchard is a new initiative for Roots for the Future with partners Godalming Town Council, Waverley Borough Council, Thakeham Homes and COPSE – Community Orchards Projects South East.

We held our first project in Guildford Borough Council who were invited to participate at the planting of the new hedge of native saplings planted outside the new Guildford Borough Council Ward, adjacent to Gill Avenue. The Guildford Borough Council Ward was built for patients of COVID 19 and funded by the council.

Community leaders

In order to reach neighbourhood residents, we involve community group representatives to advise us and help us promote our events. They also advise us on the best location for planting the trees and in some cases what types of trees would get the most enthusiasm from participants.

Participants

Participants are always keen to give us verbal feedback at the end of the workshops and we formalise their feedback by asking them to fill in forms so we could learn what went well and ways we could improve our offer. We also enjoy seeing their responses on social media. We ask schools, both the teachers and pupils, to give us feedback on our workshops.

Workshop leaders

We provide employment opportunities to freelance outdoor learning leaders. Together we design the child-focused element of the workshop and after each session we discuss what went well and ways we can improve.

Wider community

Through our social media and online presence, we are always open to suggestions from the public on where to plant and who we can engage. We believe our planting benefits the wider community living in and around the areas we plant in. We also believe that our tree planting activities benefit the national and global community because at a micro-level we contribute to national and global sustainability targets. We believe community activities, like Roots for the Future’s, are at the root of curbing the global issue of climate change.