Cheshire Wildlife Trust is celebrating the milestone of collecting over 200,000 seeds from across Cheshire as part of a national project to protect the UK’s trees.

The trust has been a partner in the UK National Tree Seed Project, a project set up by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, with funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, for five years.

The project was set up to build a collection of the country’s native tree seeds for long-term conservation.

Tree seeds that have been collected as part of the project are safely banked in the underground vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank, the largest wild plant seed bank in the world, to form the UK’s first national collection of tree seeds.

These collections play a vital role in conservation work to protect UK trees and woodlands, including against pests and diseases such as ash dieback and global challenges, such as the effects of climate change. The collections, and associated data, are available to researchers working on solutions to tackle the many threats facing our woodlands.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust has been working over the last five years to collect over 236,506 seeds with the help of over 50 volunteers. The group has worked successfully to collect popular UK tree species such as wild service, grey willow, and goat willow to make a collection to be sent to the Millennium Seed Bank.

Kevin Feeney, living landscape officer at Cheshire Wildlife Trust said: “This is the fifth consecutive year Cheshire Wildlife Trust has been working with Kew on the UK National Tree Seed Project. We are delighted to be involved in this national project.

The impacts however are far wider than trees, our health and wellbeing volunteers have been able to get involved in seed collecting. Giving the opportunities to recover through nature and make a difference on a national scale. “The project has allowed us to identify opportunities to support and protect lesser known Cheshire trees such as the wild service which is now restricted to just a few ancient woodland sites.”

• Volunteers collected over 200,000 in the last five years, over 23 trips and 150 hours

• Volunteers have ensured that Cheshire’s native species, such as Grey and Goat willow, will be conserved for years to come

• All seeds collected have been safely banked in the vaults of Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank which houses over 2 billion seeds and will be used for research to protect the UK’s woodlands.

The UK National Tree Seed Project launched in May 2013 with the aim of securing genetically diverse collections of UK native trees and shrubs. The target species the project aims to collect include many which underpin the UK’s wider plant and animal diversity, as well as supporting the woodland industry, tourism and recreation. So far the project has collected over 13 million tree seeds from over 70 different species right across the UK, from Cornwall to the Isle of Harris, and Northern Ireland to Norfolk. From sea level up to 600 metres above sea level. The project has had the support of over 400 volunteers from 30 partner organisations in a massive UK wide conservation programme.

Alice Hudson, UK National Tree Seed Project Officer, says “Over the last seven years, with the help of all our partners and the generous funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery we have created a resource that we hope to be genetically representative of our target native UK tree species. Building up this seed collection of some of the nation’s favourite and most important tree species is a vital step in combating the multiple challenges facing our woodlands, such as pests and diseases and a warming climate. We can’t thank Cheshire Wildlife Trust enough for their support in ensuring that seeds from across the UK are collected and their future conserved.”