2,500 trees put down roots by Derry river

Over 2,500 native trees now dot the banks of the Burntollet River in Derry's beautiful Faughan Valley.

The riverside planting comes from a partnership between the Loughs Agency and the Woodland Trust, with support from Northern Ireland Water and the backing of local farmers.

The new additions – a mix of oak, alder and willow – already cover some 3 hectares (7 acres) of land. And according to the partners, this is just the beginning of a large landscape venture.

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Planting by the banks of the Burntollet River will ultimately stretch over a 10-mile strip and it is hoped that, with collective efforts, the project will be replicated elsewhere.

It’s a joined-up approach, but with numerous and individual rewards in the offing.

Farmers are planting for a variety of reasons. The stabilisation of riverbanks, improved drainage and shelter for livestock are high on the list; with wildlife and water quality also set to benefit.

Dave Scott, the Woodland Trust’s Treescape Development Lead, said: “This is a perfect example of how the economy and conservation can benefit in equal measure.

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"As well as helping river quality, trees can help stop money from, literally, going down the drain. As the trees mature, their roots will help to bind and strengthen the sides of the river preventing erosion.

"In the Faughan Valley, landowners have seen parts of their fields essentially wash away, and while trees can’t solve everything, they certainly could have reduced the damage. Trees planted in the right place also help to prevent the run-off of resources such as fertilisers – soil erosion and nutrient loss are a real cost to the farming business.”

Art Niven, Fisheries Biologist with the Loughs Agency, said: “The Loughs Agency appreciates the need for diverse riverside areas that act as a buffer between the land and our watercourses.

"Native fish species and other aquatic plants and animals benefit from native trees in a number of ways, including the provision of shade which keep our rivers cool during the summer months.

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"Salmon and trout in particular require cooler water temperatures. In recent years the Loughs Agency have recorded water temperatures of 27°C in tributaries of the Foyle where no trees are present along the river corridor.”