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November 29th, 2019.

Last Sunday, the 24th of November saw the Deputy Mayor of Newhaven, Cllr Lesley Boniface, lead the local community in a tree planting event at Riverside Park which coincided with National Tree Planting Week.

Lesley is also the Chair of the Friends of Riverside Park & Valley Ponds, a volunteer group which applied to the Woodland Trust and were awarded 420 trees.

The volunteers sought help from the East Sussex County Council, who currently jointly own the park with Lewes District Council, to devise a planting plan. With further help from Burleys and the Greenhavens Network, the South Downs National Park Ranger volunteers, Newhaven Tree Wardens and SCDA, the event soon became an impressive joint working partnership.

Following apromotion campaign, which included Haven News, social media sites, leafletting 2000 homes and two radio appeals, it was hoped that some of the community would join in with planting. At 10 o’clock on Sunday morning it became obvious how passionate the people of Newhaven can be about their greenspaces and by mid-afternoon, not only had all 420 trees been planted, but an extra 400 donated by the Mayor of Newhaven and members of the public had been planted as well. At 3.30pm, with the planting sites shut down, they were turning people away as there were no trees left to plant.

Cllr Boniface explained: “It was amazing to see how the community turned out to support this event. We had over 200 people, including families with small children, on site for most of the day. Some have planted one tree, some have planted ten or more. We even had visitors from as far afield as Watford, Kent and Hastings, who wanted to be part of the national tree planting. The event has turned out to be better than I ever could have imagined and I am so grateful for all the help we’ve received from other agencies, groups and individuals.

"Not only will the new trees improve habitats for the wonderful wildlife we already have on the park, pollination potential will be increased and we’ve certainly done our bit in the fight back against climate change!

"There’s still quite a bit to be done. with aftercare and we have to look after the tiny trees for the next four or five years. I’m still receiving offers of saplings to plant on the park and there are more plans to plant in other areas, including the new play park on the Lewes Road Recreation Ground.”

Karen Rigby-Faux of Burleys and the Greenhavens Network added: “The people of Newhaven rock! There is something electric and exciting about being with that many people doing great things for our future.

"Don't lose hope. If our communities keep coming together like this, then we really can make a difference.

"We can’t bring back what we have lost, but we can arrest the decline. Together we are better.”