Tree planting at Butcombe – what to expect

There’s one main task for December to March – we have 2000 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.

"whips"
“whips”

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 December Sunday.  The trees were delivered a couple of days ago and I’d hoped to start planting this weekend but it’s been too wet – I don’t plant trees in the rain! With last year’s experience at Upton Cheyney, I think this winter’s planting should go smoothly. I know what to do, I’ve got all the tools we need and I know how to organise, feed and look after the people who I hope will offer to come along and help plant. We’ll have plenty of time for exploring, eating, playing and socialising. When we’re planting we’ll be working in teams of 2 to 4 (plus kids and dogs – optional!). Compared to last year we have more time and fewer trees so it should be easy! Between planting, there’s a footpath which leads to Blagdon Lake (only about 100m away) so there’s plenty of exploring to do.

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. I’ve already colour-coded the stakes to mark planting positions. This year everything (trees, stakes, etc) is stored at home so I’ll be taking a trailer full each planting day.

Planting needs reasonable weather – on a good day the field is a beautiful sunny place (with great views) but if it’s raining then  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).

tree planted with tree guard
tree planted with tree guard

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). It’s easy, 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.

Parking space is reasonable, there’s hard-standing for about five cars at the field entrance. Ask me for detailed directions including public transport and cycling options. Let me know when you’re thinking of coming (short notice is fine, even text me on the day) so I can send detailed directions and also I can let you know the evening before if plans change due to weather forecasts.

Roe deer: cute but not invited to eat the trees
Roe deer: cute but not invited to eat the trees

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. Ball games and other toys are fine (away from the newly planted trees please). If you’re still around at dusk we could try badger spotting before we go home, I haven’t seen one yet but there’s plenty of evidence of them. 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, hot food at lunchtime 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.

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