Newton Poppleford & Harpford Parish Council  has won a Wild About Devon award for its work planting trees and supporting wildlife.

The actions taken by the council's Climate Change Group have already led to an increase in biodiversity, and earned the Community of the Year 2023 award, presented on Friday, December 1.     

Early this year the group began by planting willow whips along the river bank and native bulbs around the parish, creating a wildflower meadow, planting a copse, putting up 32 bird boxes and planting three Platinum Jubilee trees.

They succeeded in obtaining free trees and hedging whips, meaning there was no cost to the council. 30 tree whips came from the Woodland Trust, then the East Devon AONB gave eight trees for the school playing field, two black poplars and 20 apple trees for a Community Orchard, which was also supported by the Community Café. Devon County Council provided 44 trees and 1,400 hedging whips from its Emergency Tree Fund.

The difference to the parish is noticeable; the sports field, which used to be surrounded by a wire mesh fence that was sprayed annually with weedkiller, now has 26 trees, a tree belt and 150m of hedging which will eventually replace the fence.

The new cemetery has seven new trees and 60m of new hedging, while the old cemetery has nine new trees, protected wild areas, spring bulbs, wildflowers and a hedgehog box.

The recreational field was mostly short grass but now has more than 40 new trees, a wildflower meadow and a bug hotel. Concrete blocks that had been fly-tipped were gathered up and made into a new rock wildlife habitat.

The Climate Change Group has thanked everyone who helped its work.

Parklife South West organised and helped plant the Emergency Tree Fund contributions. Bicton   College students, RSPB volunteers and local children played a big part. Many local residents stepped in to help and some provided free refreshments for the volunteers.

The Climate Change Group also arranged a ‘Giveaway’ day when 250 whips donated by Saving Devon’s Treescapes, along with hedgehog ‘holes’ and bird boxes donated by East Devon AONB were distributed free of charge to the community.

The parish grounds maintenance contract was also amended to be more wildlife friendly.

The work has paid off, with more flowers and insects around the parish, birds using the nesting boxes and wildlife being seen in the new habitats.

With a successful year behind them, the parish council is now planning its next activities, which will include working with East Devon District Council to plant more trees on land owned by EDDC.