It was in 1989 when I was working as an architect that I first got the urge to plant trees. I was not happy about the quantities of weedkiller and concrete I was required to spread around the countryside to satisfy various requirements of the building industry and felt I wanted to give something back to nature, so I started looking for a piece of agricultural land where I could grow trees. It was my tiny squeal of protest against what was, and is still, happening to the countryside.
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|In 1989 we bought an empty field of about six acres on the edge of a quiet village. It was bare and ridged from recent ploughing, not a tree or shrub in sight, only a hedge on the village side where it is bounded by long gardens. It may have been treated with weedkiller. If so, that was the last it has seen. That first winter of 1989-90 I hired a contractor to plant hedging around three sides of the field. The fourth side had a mature hedge. The hedge failed at first and almost disappeared during the drought years following 1989.||
good growth & tulip tree
| We planted a hundred
trees ourselves during the first winter, all native
deciduous species such as beech, oak, hazel, ash. My
mother and I planted the first fifty. It was a very
messy business because of the thick claggy mud that
stuck to our boots like glue. Also, access to the
field was difficult then. Although there is a road
running along one side of it, there was no road into it
and we had to climb over a ditch to get in.
2006 cinnabar caterpillars
|I had a bit
of a battle with the local authority to get planning
permission for a vehicle access. In an effort to
prevent it, they slapped a Tree Preservation Order on a
row of insignificant trees along the roadside, mainly
sycamores but also including a couple of rowans, to stop
me cutting down the one tree which had to be removed to
provide the access. I successfully challenged the
TPO. Then they refused planning permission.
However, they dropped their objections when I lodged an
That first winter, too, our grumbly horse owning neighbour on one side removed our new six foot boundary posts and burnt them when he installed a boundary fence. Another neighbour, a farmer, complained about rabbits on our land, so we erected a rabbit fence to deter them. We knew about the damage done by rabbits and hares. Every tree we plant has a rabbit guard and sometimes that's not enough. We've seen Muntjack deer there, which are even more destructive.
2007 a busy year
2010 a quiet year
|We planted another
three hundred trees during the second winter of
1990-1991 and about fifteen hundred more over between
1992 and 1998. Most of those early batches of trees came
at a discount from the local authority who sold them to
landowners with conditions attached. We also grew some
ourselves from chestnuts and acorns, and many are given
to us by friends who dig up surplus seedlings from their
gardens or allotments.
The farmer also complained about the thistles which were rampant in our field during the early years, growing up to five feet high in places, so I bought a ride-on mower with which I cut them down for two seasons until the mower was stolen in October 1994. It was not insured and I did not replace it. By that time the weed situation had settled down as Nature had found its own balance. After the theft we installed two gates with locks, a wide field gate and a smaller pedestrian one. Within a week the small gate had been stolen, so we marked the big one to make it undesirable to a thief and (touch wood!) it is still there. That was in November 1996.
Our third neighbour complained about ragwort in our field after he started keeping goats, as they could be poisoned if they ate it, so we had the ragwort mown down before it could seed. I was equally nervous that his goats might escape into the field and eat our trees.
Over three and a half thousand trees have now been planted (about two thousand by contractors) and the field is nearly full. The earliest plantings are between twenty and thirty feet high, but some of those planted during drought years have grown more slowly. Much of the hedge came back after the rains returned and is filling in well.
Yvonne Jerrold - August 2005
2011-2012 good growth
2019 and 2020
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