The Medway Urban Forest

The mosaic of habitats that makes up the Medway Urban Forest includes chalk grassland, sycamore woodland, the mown grassland of our parks and ancient, semi-natural woodland …. and our back gardens!

The importance of these natural areas for our health and wellbeing, both mental and physical, has been highlighted during the current Coronavirus crisis. Less traffic has meant that we can hear the bird song in the morning and the air we breathe is cleaner. The walks we have been taking each day have shown us the importance of our local greenspaces and how much we value the work done by all, including the volunteers, who look after these places.

The Urban Forest is a crucial part of our local communities;

  • The contribution that the trees make to the quality of our air
  • The value that the green spaces of all types has for our biodiversity and for the storing, or sequestration, of carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Helping to keep our towns and cities cooler as the global average temperatures rise
  • Bringing economic value to our communities; it is well know that the value of our properties is higher where there are trees and greenspaces.
  • As mentioned above, our health both mental and physical is improved by our greenspaces.

There is a phrase used by the experts in management of our urban areas – ecosystem services. These are the contributions that the natural world makes to our lives that we hardly notice but yet play such an important role.

Those of us who are volunteers in our parks and greenspaces make a huge contribution to the quality of these “ecosystem services.” Working in partnership with the Council the MUGS Forum is helping to measure the value of this work and of the Urban Forest itself.

There are two initiatives now underway….

The Medway Tree Strategy

We are looking in detail at the all the trees across Medway so that we can develop a detailed plan of what we need to plant and where and to measure the value of these trees for the environment and our communities.

The first part of this work involves counting the trees! Or rather measuring the percentage canopy cover of trees we have in Medway. A team of our volunteers is now working on this with Medway Council and we hope to publish the results later in the summer. The final Strategy will be ready by the autumn and is a key part of the Council’s response to the Climate emergency we declared last year. We will also have the result of our funding bid for the planting of thousands of new trees across Medway by then, so the practical work can begin!

Medway’s Biological Records

In all our greenspaces, as Friends Groups or simply as gardeners, we are making a great effort to stop the decline in species and habitats and bring about real improvements to our biodiversity. In order to measure the success of this work a small group of volunteers has come together to record our Medway species and habitats. These biological records will act as a guide to our work going forward. For example we recently found orchids in Prospect Row in Chatham and Red Kites have been seen flying over Rochester!

If you want to be a part of this work then there are a few simple things that can you do………

  • Join your local Friends group through our website
  • Find out more form your local wildlife organisations such as KWT and the RSPB
  • Care for the wildlife in your garden
  • Talk to your local councillors about what Medway is doing for our urban environment
  • Make sure that you recycle as much as possible
  • Check on your energy consumption
  • Walk or cycle instead of using the car

The young activist Greta Thunberg says that this generation is responsible for the problems of our climate and the state of our environment …. Well we can be responsible … by making it better!