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.
the progress of the woodland, click on the
the field before any planting
|At the end of 1989 Brian and I bought an empty field of about six acres on the edge of a quiet village. It was completely 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 had possibly been treated with weedkiller too. If so, that was the last weedkiller 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 already had a mature hedge. The hedge failed at first and almost disappeared during the drought years that followed 1989.||
| We also planted a
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,
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.
|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 ridiculous Tree
on a row of insignificant trees along the roadside,
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
challenged the TPO. Then they refused planning
dropped their objections when I lodged an appeal.
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
done by rabbits and hares. Every tree we plant has a
guard and sometimes that's not enough. We've seen
there, which are even more destructive.
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
2006 cinnabar caterpillars
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