Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Wee Forests open in Dundee – here’s what they will bring to your neighbourhood

wee forests dundee
Curator of the Dundee Botanic Gardens Kevin Frediani planting tree saplings on Balunie Avenue.

They may be dubbed ‘Wee Forests’ but green experts hope they will have a big impact on Dundee.

Known outside of Scotland as “tiny forests”, the practice sees hundreds of trees planted in a small area.

As well as boosting biodiversity in urban environments, Wee Forests also help cool city temperatures and offer mental health benefits.

wee forests dundee
Callan Torrance, 6, digs a hole at the Robertson Street Wee Forest in Dundee.

The project was brought to the City of Discovery through a collaboration with Dundee University, NatureScot and charity Earthwatch Europe.

Kevin Frediani, who runs the university’s botanic gardens, was on hand to officially open the Robertson Street and Balunie Avenue sites last weekend.

Volunteers – including children from Glebelands Primary School – helped Kevin and his team plant hundreds of trees at the launch.

The trees are just saplings at this point.

But we spoke to Earthwatch’s Ben Williams – who has been involved in introducing dozens of tiny forests to cities across the UK – to learn what the green spaces will offer Dundonians in time.

What benefits can Wee Forests bring to Dundee?

With climate change causing rising temperatures in parts of the world, concrete-rich cities are likely to feel the heat.

Peer-reviewed research shows that Wee Forests and other intensive green spaces are on average 1.2C cooler than their greyer surroundings.

They are popping up in cities across Europe and further afield.

Ben Williams is senior project manager at Earthwatch Europe.

He has led dozens of tiny forests projects the UK, including Whitney, Oxfordshire just before the country first went into lockdown and, more recently, Blackpool.

As many as 600 trees are grown in a roughly 200 square metres zone. In a few years a rich, biodiverse green space should be thriving.

Is it all that simple?

There are challenges to creating Wee Forests that Ben and his team have to be cognisant of.

He said: “It’s important that this isn’t just something we do to people and then set off into the sunset.

“We want to bring the community along with us. After all, they are the ones that know the area and will be living with the tiny forests.”

wee forests dundee
Primary 1 children at Glebelands primary celebrate the opening of the Wee Forest near their school with teachers Mrs Murray (left) and Mr Jamieson (right) and Kevin Frediani (middle).

The intensive nature of the scheme means costs can run higher than usual for tree planting, with price tags reaching between £20k-£30k.

“There are cheaper ways of getting trees into the ground,” Ben remarked.

Keeping you cool

But when it all comes together, Ben says it can bring a lot of positives to urban environments.

“It helps with thermal comfort, biodiversity, mental health and carbon capture.”

They can also help give people’s mental health a boost, he said. The need for this in urban settings was brought into sharp focus when the coronavirus pandemic surged across the globe.

How Whitney’s tiny forest grew in just over a year.

Ben added: “Without getting all Joni Mitchell, nature is something that people weirdly get in the car and travel to.

“But this is putting a natural environment in places where people live.

“There’s a strong correlation between deprivation and lack of access to quality green spaces.”

wee forests dundee
Kevin Frediani (middle) with GPs from the Douglas Medical Practice Alec Aitchison and Liz Brown planting tree saplings.

Kevin Frediani from Dundee University’s botanic gardens agrees.

He hopes the Dundee Wee Forests will be the first of many in the city.

He said: “Having them dotted all over the city will make nature accessible for all.

“We’ve really seen the importance of nature and outdoor spaces during lockdown, both for physical and mental health.”

Where does the idea of Wee Forests come from?

The mastermind is Japanese horticulturalist Akira Miyawaki, who developed the idea in the 1970s.

He was seemingly ahead of his time. Miyawaki’s initial forays were at shrines as opposed to urban environments and went largely unnoticed.

That is until Shubhendu Sharma introduced tiny forests into some of India’s most densely-populated cities in the past decade.

From there the idea spread to Europe, thanks to organisations such as Earthwatch.

The Netherlands is among the biggest adopters of the practice in Europe.

Utrecht University is behind one in the city.

Utrecht University’s tiny forest.

The picture above is a taster of how Dundee’s Wee Forests could develop.

But not everyone loves the style of tree planting, which Ben described as the “marmite” of the horticultural world.

wee forests dundee
Volunteers at work planting tree saplings.

He added: “The approach sort of flies in the face of conventional tree planting, which is very minimalist with a ‘leave no trace’ approach.

“Whereas the tiny forest approach is more interventionist.

“We’re quite aware we’re not creating a natural environment, but a depiction of one.”