Family launches eco-site near St Ives

From left to right: Errol (aged 7), Kevin, Kirsten and Verity (aged 10) Sporns, on the land they are rewilding in St Ives

From left to right: Errol (aged 7), Kevin, Kirsten and Verity (aged 10) Sporns, on the land they are rewilding in St Ives - Credit: Archant

A plot of land near St Ives has taken on a new life as an environmental zone after it was bought by a St Ives family who plan to plant hundreds of trees in a bid to help tackle climate change.

Kirsten McLaughlin and husband Kevin Sporns, both 42, felt burnt out by years of corporate work in the IT sector and decided to take matters into their own hands by acquiring the 2.5 acre piece of agricultural land where they plan to plant 1,500 trees and shrubs to offset the family’s carbon footprint.

The couple, and children Errol, 7, and Verity, 10, have already noticed improvements to the land since launching the project earlier this year and have been especially excited to find stoats living there.

Kirsten explained that when she and Kevin decided to review their five-year goals in 2019 they found they were growing increasingly frustrated about climate change and the environment and that the children were becoming exhausted by a cycle of school, care and holiday clubs.

The couple, originally from Canada where they were used to wide-open spaces, wanted to find more family time and live more sustainably, so they decided to buy a plot of land where they could fulfil their own environmental vision.

They were able to find a landowner who shared their views and they took over the plot, between St Ives and Somersham, as the first lockdown hit and now their planting plans will be affected by the second lockdown.

Kirsten, who has taken a six month career break to set up the project, said: “The opportunity to get outside and help build something for the future has been great for our family’s mental health.”

Most Read

Kevin said: “It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with everything that is going on with the climate. However, the response we have had so far has been so positive. We can make a difference.”

Verity added: “My generation are told time and time again about the disaster that is climate change. I’m glad that my family is doing something about it.”

The family has already been inviting volunteers to help plant around 100 donated native trees grown from seed or as saplings and want to put in a further 1,100 trees and shrubs by the end of the year. Species include oak, sycamore, horse chestnut, walnut and the rare black poplar.

Kisten said they had been amazed by how insects and wildlife had already started to colonise the site which had started life as a ploughed field.

“It has gone from a bare field to a hive of activity with bees and butterflies and we are particularly excited by our stoats,” she said.

The aim is to divide the site into a “wild zone” with native trees and a meadow and an “orchard” and there would also be ponds, an apiary and an area for food production so it retained links to its past as agricultural land.

Kirsten said: “Because this is agricultural land I think it is important to make sure part of the land continues to produce food for us and the community.”

The family said they were glad they were able to set up the project in Cambridgeshire which had the lowest tree coverage in England, with increased coverage being seen as a way of sequestering carbon and improving biodiversity and helping to mitigate climate change.

They thanked local organisations and volunteers for their support.

If you would like to volunteer to plant trees with Kirsten and Kevin after lockdown, email