There’s one main task for Jauary to March – I have 3500 trees to plant. They’re native broadleaves: oak, field maple, small leaved lime, birch, aspen, alder, wild cherry, crab apple,
rowan, sweet chestnut, beech, hazel, hawthorn, goat willow, dogwood, spindle, dog rose, holly and blackthorn.
The trees are ‘whips’, two years old and about 60cm high with good roots. They’re bare-rooted and they’re planted in a notch – no need to dig holes, just make a slit in the ground with a spade. Each tree will have a tree shelter and stake or a spiral-guard and cane to protect them from deer, rabbits an other wildlife.
The trees need to be planted by mid-March whilst they are still dormant, after that the roots will be growing and will be easily damaged by planting. I can’t do it all myself so I’ve invited lots of friends to help. If you’re reading this and I haven’t invited you yet then please get in touch!
I’m writing this blog post on a rainy January morning from the library of a field study centre in North Wales – there’s some fabulous books here about woodlands, including one which tells me that volunteers will probably manage to plant 50 to 75 trees (with tree-guards) per person in a day. I’m expecting to allow a for bit of time for exploring, eating, playing and socialising and I think we’ll be working in teams of 2 to 4 (plus kids and dogs – optional!) so maybe we’ll be slower than their estimate, which is fine.
Some care is needed to get the trees in the right combinations and places – trees that will grow well together and will thrive in that location. We’ll be planting them 2 or 3 metres apart and leaving many paths and tracks and clearings. To make it easy I’ll be putting out stakes to mark planting positions. In a few areas, fast growing sacrificial “nurse trees” will be planted between slower growing trees to provide wind protection during early years – this will include some Spruce (aka Christmas Trees) to be cut after 7 or 8 years when they’re a good size.
Planting needs reasonable weather – on a good day the field is a beautiful sunny place (with great views) but if it’s raining then it’s no fun so wet planting days will be cancelled the evening before in consultation with the weather forecast. We also can’t plant if the round is frozen hard or covered with snow (but we can still go out there and play if you like).
Planting will involve collecting a bundle of trees, finding where they need to go, making a notch for each with a spade and inserting the roots sand the stake (or cane). Close the notch up (spade or heel). Add the tree-guard (or spiral). I’ll be practising the technique so I can demonstrate.
There’s other jobs to do besides planting – tree guards to move around the field, fires to light, hot food and drinks to make, photos to take and lot more. And of course you’re welcome to stop and play.
Comforts provided! There’s a lovely compost loo (or you’re welcome to just pee in the woods, the trees will love it). We’ve got a fantastic home-made rocket stove for boiling kettles and cooking, with conventional camping stove for backup and very probably a camp-fire too. Plenty of camp chairs and an endless supply of hot drinks and snacks. I’m hoping to sort out some shelter – but expect a large tent or gazebo rather than a cosy sitting-room. (If you really want to escape at lunch-time it’s a few minutes walk to the Upton Inn).
Parking space is a bit limited so I’m hoping for a few fairly full cars at a time rather than many/empty cars. Or if you want to cycle it’s about 10 miles from central Bristol via the railway path. Let me know when you’re thinking of coming (short notice is fine) so I can send detailed directions and also I can let you know the evening before if plans change due to weather forecasts.
Have fun! You can bring friends, kids and dogs, they’re very welcome. The field has plenty of open space and some woods and wildlife to explore. It isn’t particularly hazardous but there are a couple of deep ponds, a small stream, a couple of barbed wire fences around the edges and a few rabbit-holes to trip over. Kite flying, ball games and other toys are fine (away from he newly planted trees please). If you’re still around at dusk we could try badger spotting before we go home. You don’t have to plant trees, it will be nice to see you anyway!
If you’re coming you could bring:
- Lots of warm clothes, including hats, gloves and waterproofs.
- Boots or wellies. The field is grassy with not very much mud but if you’re planting trees you’re sure to find at least a little bit.
- Camera, binoculars (for wildlife), kite and other toys (sledge if it’s snowy). Torch if you want to stay after dusk.
- I have a collection of tools for planting but if there’s a lot of people around we could make good use of one or two more spades (ideally narrow ones like border spades or planting spades but anything will do). Also mallets (to bang 3cm square wooden stakes into soft ground).
- There will be hot drinks and snacks, quite likely hot food and more but this may vary depending on who’s coming – I’ll email to confirm so you can decide whether to bring anything more. There is no drinking water supply but I’ll take a water container for drinking and hand-washing.