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Exeter’s green and pleasant landscape

Published: 16 October 2023

Exeter’s green and pleasant landscape Cllr Ruth Williams, Lead Councillor with responsibility for Exeter’s open spaces

By Cllr Ruth Williams, Exeter City Council’s Lead Councillor with responsibility for Exeter’s open spaces

In Exeter we pride ourselves on our green open spaces. At the City Council we are committed to protecting and indeed enhancing these valuable green corridors.

We recognise the important role that trees and plants play, not only for the environment but for the health and wellbeing of our citizens and those who come to visit this great city.

The beauty of Exeter is you are never far away from a green space or park. In fact we have six stunning Valley Parks – run by our partner Devon Wildlife Trust – that are quite literally on people’s doorsteps.

The Valley Parks are not only great places to walk, run and cycle, they provide a home for a rich variety of wildlife.

In Exeter we have countless green open spaces – urban city centre parks where people can while away the hours enjoying the trees and beautiful plants that we manage throughout the year, sports pitches and allotments. In fact people are so enamoured by these green spaces, this was a major factor (75% of respondents) in Exeter being named as the best place to retire in a recent survey by consumer group Which?

The city has made a name for itself in recent years for its commitment to being a Wild City, a partnership struck up with Devon Wildlife Trust. That partnership has seen wild flowers breaking out in vibrant colours on roadside verges, roundabouts and meadows. Wonderful for our visitors and residents, including our pollinator population. Exeter is indeed buzzing!

Only last year, Exeter was ranked the top city centre in the UK for green spaces by the University of Sheffield, an accolade we are extremely proud of. We were the highest ranked city - out of a total of 68 – for greenness, the second best city for tree canopy cover and the third best for greenspace coverage.

The report noted: “The process of urbanisation places considerable pressure on biodiversity and human health.” It went on to say: “Evidence shows that green infrastructure, including trees, hedgerows, green roofs and parks play a vital role in urban ecosystem integrity. This includes sustaining biodiversity.”

But we’re not resting on our laurels. Since the year 2000, we’ve planted some 17,000 trees and will put another 109 in the ground during the coming planting season. This is celebrated every year with a tree photography competition, with the City Council asking people to photograph their favourite tree.

A recent study from Treeconomics showed the true value of Exeter’s 179,000 trees to be valued at around £56.6 million for carbon storage.

We have great tree canopy cover in Exeter – recently calculated at 20%, with an additional 11% of shrub cover – which plays a crucial role in improving air quality for our residents and visitors.   

On top of this, Exeter’s trees significantly reduce surface water run-off by over 82,000 m3 every year, the equivalent of 33 Olympic-sized swimming pools, saving an estimated £257,000 in water treatment costs.

We are proud of our parks and green spaces in Exeter – they help break up the urban nature of our city . We’ve worked hard over the years to ensure that they are protected and this is something we will continue to do over the coming years so that they can be enjoyed for future generations to come.

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