A NEW woodland habitat has been created at a St Mary Bourne-based fresh produce company. 

Vitacress Salads has undertaken an extensive tree planting project which will see a new woodland grow, as part of The Woodland Trust’s MOREwoods scheme. 

The project, to plant 800 native tree saplings in an unused field on Vitacress’ primary watercress and salad production site, is just part of the company’s commitment to its sustainability framework, Second Nature, to improve biodiversity and better-quality surface wasters.  

Comprising 25 native species including Oak, Birch, Willow and Hawthorn, the fruits and flowers of these trees will provide food resources to support native wildlife and pollinators, while the trees themselves will provide shelter and nesting opportunities.

Andover Advertiser: Some of the staff who helped with the planting at VitacressThe location of the site of this new woodland is also significant as it is adjacent to the Bourne Rivulet, a headwater of the River Test, in recent years high groundwater levels and heavy rainfall have resulted in increased flooding of this area – Vitacress hopes this new woodland will help mitigate against future flood risk.

Andrew Eastwood, managing director at Vitacress Salads, said: "It was a privilege to be involved in such an important initiative whilst supporting our Second Nature environmental programme here in St Mary Bourne. The benefits of native woods and trees are now well understood in the fight against climate change and at Vitacress Salads we are delighted to be part of the MOREwoods scheme. I’m extremely impressed by the number of colleagues who offered to help and their dedication to complete such a huge task.”

The tree planting took place over three days in mid-February with more than 40 staff from across the business volunteering to help in the sizeable project. The saplings were planted in a random format to simulate a natural woodland with a variety of larger species like Oaks and smaller shrub like species like Hawthorn.

Leah Mathias-Collins, group environment manager at Vitacress, added: “This woodland creation project is a really exciting step for us as a company to move towards our Second Nature goals and to create better quality habitats on our production sites.”

Once the woodland becomes established, Vitacress will be installing benches so staff can visit the area for mental wellbeing and education.