From concrete to canopy: The revival of the UK’s Mersey Forest

With support from partners like the Arbor Day Foundation with funding from HP, this revitalized forest that stretches across the north of England has doubled the amount of woodland in the region.

By Elizabeth Sheldon — September 18, 2023

While the idea of an English forest may conjure visions of bucolic woods and glades extending as far as the eye can see, the Mersey Forest, located across Merseyside and Cheshire in the north of England, includes urban cores, suburban fringes, and converted industrial plots.

In the early 1990s, residents in the area, along with a collective of local governments, landowners, nonprofits, and environmental agencies, joined forces to counteract the effects of urban sprawl, abandoned manufacturing sites, and lack of easy access to nature in their area. This ambitious long-term plan for replanting trees and creating woodlands is just one of 13 designated Community Forests across the United Kingdom that are transforming the landscape and neighborhoods in and around the largest towns and cities.

The Mersey Forest is also a cornerstone of the Northern Forest initiative, which aims to establish at least 50 million trees by 2043 that will help reforest land from the Mersey River and Liverpool to the city of Hull on the North Sea. This green passage will improve quality of life for 13 million residents, foster biodiversity, and create bio corridors for wildlife like beavers and even wild lynx.

An image of a lush English forest alongside a residential area.

Craig Easton

Upton Park, with the town of Moreton in the distance.

An image of a lush English forest.

Craig Easton

Established forest and growth in Upton Park near Liverpool.

The Mersey Forest Partnership works with communities, landowners, and businesses and supports a myriad of projects including forest schools, woodland management, and the creation of green jobs, along with the establishment of forests. It’s the work of a diverse coalition of partners and funders, including HP partner the Arbor Day Foundation, that has doubled the region’s woodland cover since 1994. 


RELATED: The communal effort behind the restoration of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest


As the Mersey Forest nears three decades in action, some of those earliest efforts have yielded idyllic copses and fully established woodlands, while at other sites saplings are just taking root. Roughly halfway between Liverpool and Manchester, Collier’s Moss Common, for example, has been transformed from a once-abandoned area near a power station to a verdant forest that’s a favorite of hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. A short drive away, mature trees sway high above Sudley Fields on the outskirts of Liverpool, where local volunteers recently planted 50 delicate saplings to bolster the tree cover. 

An image of a lush English forest.

Craig Easton

New trees planted by the Mersey Forest Partnership.

“The Mersey Forest and the wider Community Forest network represent one of the largest ecological regeneration initiatives in England,” says Abbie Eisenhart, director of corporate partnerships at the Arbor Day Foundation. “Thanks to the support from HP, we’re able to elevate our work and help these communities benefit from direct access to green spaces and trees, which aid flood mitigation, enhance air quality, and improve physical and mental well-being.” 


Learn why reforestation is more complicated than you think