Thousands of acres of new woodlands are to be planted close to rivers

The river Wensum Credit: The river Wensum

Thousands of acres of new woodlands along rivers are to be planted to help manage flood risks and boost water quality and wildlife, it has been announced.

Six areas across the UK have been chosen for the Woodlands for Water project including parts of Norfolk. The Rivers Bure, Wensum and Wissey are among them.  The woodlands will be planted on National Trust Land and should be completed by 2025.

The "woodlands for water" project aims to create 3,150 hectares (7,780 acres) of woods along rivers and waterways in six catchments from Cumbria to Devon by March 2025.

The scheme has been launched by the Environment Department (Defra), with backing from leading environmental organisations the National Trust, Woodland Trust, the Rivers Trust and Beaver Trust.

Farmers and landowners will be able to apply for funding through the Forestry Commission's new England woodland creation offer. This provides greater financial incentives than before to plant trees to deliver positive impacts such as along rivers and water courses.

Planting or allowing trees to grow naturally on and around river banks can block the run-off of pollutants into waterways, keeping them cleaner, and slow the flow of water to manage flood risks, officials said.

Creating woodland corridors along rivers can also help wildlife and make rivers more resilient to climate change by providing shade and cooling water temperatures.

It is hoped that planting trees will help contribute to a natural network of habitats along some of the 150,000 miles of watercourses in England as part of plans to boost nature in the country.

Forestry minister Lord Goldsmith said:

The project will be carried out by the "riverscapes" partnership of experts from the environmental groups, who will provide expert assistance in the selected river catchment areas

Funding for the scheme is part of the England Trees Action Plan which aims to see more trees in the ground to support climate action, nature and people.

The Rivers Trust chief executive Mark Lloyd said: "By planting the right trees in the right places, we can tackle multiple problems and provide multiple benefits: more nature, less flooding, more carbon locked up in trees and soils, fewer droughts, less pollution, more wild places for people to enjoy.

"We hope that this project will be the pathfinder for a route map to the revival of rivers and their catchment areas that can benefit every corner of England, and the rest of the UK."

Planting will take place on the National Trust estate and in six catchment areas across the country including:

Taw and Torridge in Devon and Somerset;

Tamar and Fowey in Devon and Cornwall;

Bure, Glaven, Stiffkey, Wensum, Heacham, Lark, Gaywood and Wissey catchment in Norfolk;

Eden and Derwent in Cumbria;

Teme in Shropshire and Worcestershire;

Wye and Usk in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

National Trust director of land and nature Harry Bowell said: