To mark the beginning of National Tree Week the Mayor joined pupils from Oakfield Primary School in Carrickfergus to plant the first trees of the season.

National Tree Week is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration and will take place from Saturday 27 November – Sunday 5 December.

This marks the start of the winter tree planting season (November to March each year).

As part of the initiative people are encouraged to come together to celebrate and plant trees.

Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Cllr William McCaughey, officially launched tree planting season 2021/22 at Bashfordsland Wood & Oakfield Glen Local Nature Reserve on Wednesday 24 November.

Cllr McCaughey said: “We are here today to celebrate National Tree Week and to plant the first trees of the season as part of the MEA4Trees programme.

“Through MEA4Trees, Council agreed an ambitious tree planting programme of 58,000 native trees – one for each household in the Borough – being planted within 5 years. Over 50,000 native trees have been planted across the Borough since the launch of MEA4Trees in 2019.

“Council is delighted to continue working with partners Woodland Trust on a range of tree planting initiatives over the next few years. We are keen to hear from landowners, community groups, schools – if you have space for trees on your land, please get in touch to discuss options. If you have a site in mind and some willing volunteers, we may be able to work together.”

“Global warming is happening at a faster rate than ever. Our polar ice caps are melting and our forests are burning. We are in a climate emergency and it is threatening our planet. According to experts, we are on track for an increase of between 3°C and 4°C by 2100. And these are only global average temperatures. At the poles and over land (where people live), the increase may be higher – possibly even double. This is already affecting our tree planting season here which is starting later and later each year and now goes on long into late spring, due to the first frosts happening much later in the year.”

Gregor Fulton, Woodland Trust Northern Ireland Lead Outreach Manager said: “We are delighted to continue to partner with Mid and East Antrim Council to support the MEA4Trees programme. Northern Ireland currently has the lowest tree cover within Europe, with just 8% cover so by supporting planting initiatives like this we have the opportunity to create new green spaces and address the climate crisis at a grass roots level.

“It’s fantastic that so many trees have already been planted as part of the programme, trees bring so many benefits: they provide much-needed homes for wildlife; they lock up carbon and improve soil, water and the air we breathe. This is a fantastic opportunity for people to really make a difference in their local community.”

Cllr William McCaughey, added: “Trees are our most powerful weapon to combat Climate Change. Trees are the ultimate carbon capture and storage machines. Like great carbon sinks, woods and forests absorb atmospheric carbon and lock it up for centuries.

“The MEA4Trees programme is promoting the importance of trees, helping Council work towards carbon neutral status, and delivering a number of Community Plan Objectives such as Good health and wellbeing; Lifelong Learning; and Our Environment.

“Special thanks to pupils from Oakfield Primary School for helping out – a tree-mendous effort.

“Our staff will also be out planting trees with schools and community groups as part of National Tree Week.”

Attending the launch were pupils from Oakfield Primary School, Council representatives and Woodland Trust representative Peter Lyons.