A CAMPAIGN launches today to plant more than 100,000 trees across the South Downs National Park to restore those lost to pests and diseases.

Following an "overwhelming" public response to the initial appeal, the Trees for the Downs campaign has smashed its initial £61,500 target – raising a staggering £175,000 in just 18 months.

The South Downs National Park Trust has now set its sights on raising a total of £260,000 to plant more than 100,000 trees across Sussex and Hampshire - tens of thousands more trees than originally planned.

The charity appeal launched in autumn 2019 to restore trees that have been lost over the past few decades, including those to ash dieback and Dutch elm disease.

The Argus: Views of the South Downs National Park at Harting Down in West Sussex. Photo: Sam Moore/SDNPAViews of the South Downs National Park at Harting Down in West Sussex. Photo: Sam Moore/SDNPA

A mixture of iconic species including black poplar, oak, field maple and disease-resistant elms, will be planted in community spaces and along roads and popular walking routes.

Julie Fawcett, chairwoman of the South Downs National Park Trust, the official charity for the National Park, said: “The response to Trees for the Downs has been overwhelming and far exceeded our expectations.

"I think it shows how much we love our trees.

“I’d like to thank each and every person, community group and business that has donated to this inspiring campaign – every penny counts and every tree planted will make a difference.

"Trees are just incredible for the environment – they provide a home to so much wildlife, provide oxygen, improve the soil, help fight climate change and, last but not least, are really beautiful to look at.

"Unfortunately, many wonderful trees have been lost from the landscape due to pests and diseases and that’s why we want to restore them.

“Trees for the Downs also goes hand in hand with the National Park’s nature recovery drive – helping wildlife to flourish once again in our countryside, villages, towns and cities.

“We’ve significantly upped our target and would like to raise about another £85,000 to be able to plant a total of 100,000 trees for the campaign."

The Argus: Tree saplings planted at Lancing Ring as part of the Trees for the DownsTree saplings planted at Lancing Ring as part of the Trees for the Downs

Some 10,000 of the 100,000 trees are already in the ground, with planting taking place last winter at more than a dozen sites across Hampshire, West and East Sussex. Farmers, landowners and community groups applied for funding for the trees from the Trust.

Almost 4,000 trees were planted in the Adur and Worthing area, with 2,000 trees at Lancing Ring, 1,300 trees planted at Sheepcombe Hanger in Findon Valley and about 650 trees now in the ground at Gallops in Findon Valley.

Peter Whish, arboricultural inspector for Adur and Worthing Councils, said: “Thanks to the Trees for the Downs campaign we've been able to quickly begin the restoration of our public open spaces on the South Downs which have lost significant trees to ash dieback.

“Replanting with a good diversity of trees will help build resilience into these precious landscapes for the future.”

The trust hopes to plant the trees in phases over the next four years, until 2025, and applications are now open for future rounds of planting. Anyone interested can email grants@southdowns.gov.uk for more details.

Applications are welcome from landowners, farmers, parish and town councils, schools and community groups, including those within the National Park and those near the National Park boundary.

Donate to Trees for the Downs here