The tree planting events have been extremely beneficial, especially for this CAVDAS drug recovery group.

Tree planting unites community in unexpected ways

Coed Caerdydd events aim to plant over 20,000 new trees in 160 sites over Cardiff

CANTON residents came together and volunteered to plant trees in the second Coed Caerdydd event of the year.

The trees, planted in the Jubilee Recreation Ground and Sanatorium Park, were a mixture of whips and cherry trees.

Chris Engel, from Coed Caerdydd, helps Canton residents plant cherry trees at the Jubilee Recreation Ground. (Credit: Eirian Jones)

Set up in November 2021, Coed Caerdydd is the council’s 10-year project to increase tree canopy cover from 18% to 25% in response to the climate and nature emergencies.

“Last year we did 24 sites and about 16,000 trees were planted, covering about eight hectares of new woodland. This year we are on our fourth week, and we’ve already planted over 2,000 trees. We’re going to be doing 160 sites,” said Chloe Jenkins, the project’s volunteer coordinator.

Ms Jenkins said locations for planting came through suggestions from members of the public.

“This summer we attended a lot of community fairs to speak to people and see what trees they’d like to see in their area. We also work with local councillors quite a lot to make sure that we are delivering and putting the right trees in the right places,” she said.

“This year one of our key aims is to do something in every single ward of Cardiff. So there will be more events, but some of it will be smaller stuff where we’re putting in three to five trees, like what we’ve done today so we can reach as many communities as possible.”

Many Canton residents attended the Coed Caerdydd event at the Jubilee Recreation Ground. (Credit: Eirian Jones)

Among the army of volunteers at Jubilee Recreation Ground on December 2 was Councillor Stephen Cunnah who hoped the trees planted would be “sturdy, hardy trees for future generations to last many decades if not hundreds of years”.

 “I know the residents of Canton love nature and the ability to come to a park to walk and look at the trees and see the leaves change during the seasons,” he said.

“It gives people a sense of place, a sense of wellbeing and of course the obvious environmental benefits in terms of air pollution and wildlife show why it is so important to have trees.

“Canton is very urban so we probably won’t be the main part of Cardiff which contributes the most to that 25% target but every little bit is important.

“That’s what we’re doing today – just trying to do our little bit and to make Canton and the city a much nicer place to live.”

Councillor Stephen Cunnah planting a Cherry Tree at Jubilee Recreation Ground (Photo Credit: Eirian Jones)

Anne Marie, a Coed Caerdydd volunteer and part of the Save Sanatorium Park community, said: “We’re just local people who love nature and want to make a great place to live in. During lockdown this park became so important for us all. We’re right in the inner-city part of Cardiff so it’s great to access the open space.

“We’ve got some groups that are involved in substance misuse and they’re going to use the new trees as part of remembrance as well today. Later on, when the trees are planted, we’ll do some pyrography writing on wood and put some labels on the trees. People can have some ownership of the trees and maybe be more involved in looking after and supporting them.”

“We’d love to have more volunteers and get more people involved because we’re going to have to maintain the trees and look after them. Everybody’s welcome to come and see the trees, the park is open 24/7. It’s such a beautiful haven where you can get some peace and quiet.”

Volunteers enjoyed planting whips at Sanatorium Park (Credit: Anne Marie)

Many volunteers who attended the event at Sanatorium Park were members of a drug recovery group set up by CAVDAS; the Cardiff and Vale Drug and Alcohol Service.

Vinny Condron, who is a Peer2Peer volunteer for CAVDAS, was previously a drug addict for 28 years. He attended as part of Kaleidoscope’s Remembrance Day.

“It’s Remembrance Day for people we have lost, not necessarily to drug addiction, but drug related. I’ve lost about 14 friends and relatives along the way. There’s a lot of stigma around drug addiction – drug addiction and mental health go hand in hand,” he said.

“Drug addicts and alcoholics tend to isolate themselves a lot, so bringing them out to a field to plant some trees is amazing. When I was in addiction recovery, I would’ve never done this, unless somebody actually said to me: ‘we’re doing this, come along’.

“I love being in this community – it has saved my life,” he added.

The volunteers who planted a mixture of trees at Sanatorium Park, including residents, a drug rehabilitation group, a PCSO, and Carwyn Jones, a representative for the construction company ISG (Credit: Anne Marie)

CAVDAS activity coordinator Nick Smith also stressed the importance of these events for people in drug and alcohol recovery.

“We brought a load of them here in April to do some tree planting. A lot of the issues our services users have is being stuck indoors so it’s a nice way to get them out and doing something.

“The more stuff we can do out of buildings the better. It’s about building social groups. They all really enjoyed it last time. Just a couple of hours where they’re not stuck in a group room, and they get a lot out of it,” said Mr Smith.

The CAVDAS drug recovery group along with coordinators Nick Smith and Vinny Condron (Credit: Vincent Condron)

Volunteering does not end with the planting, the maintenance of the trees is just as important.

“We have a council-wide Arbotrack system that gets fed through to our parks maintenance teams so if there’s a certain amount of larger tree works that needs to be completed, that will get sent through to them,” said Ms Jenkins.

“We are also trying to establish a network of Tree Guardians, where we ask people to keep an eye out on the trees in their area. As people are naturally walking their dogs or playing sports or something, if all of a sudden, the trees get damaged, we’d really like to know about it so we can do something about it.”

A total of 66 planting events are planned across Cardiff between December and March 2023. For information on how to get involved click here.

Coed Treganna can also be contacted for information on future planting events at Sanatorium Park.