When we were buying our smallholding and exploring what we were going to do with our 3 acres of land, we decided that we would plant some trees. Soon after we moved here, we got in touch with The Woodland Trust for advice and found that they were actually offering grants and funding support to farmers and smallholders interested in planting trees on their land.
Through their MOREwoods scheme, The Woodland Trust make financial and practical woodland creation help available to people with a minimum requirement of 1.25 acres of land available for small woods or scattered plantings. We sent off our application, along with detailed maps of our property and land, and found out at the end of September that our planting proposal was approved.
At that stage, there were three different options of tree packs available to us and The Woodland Trust put us in touch with one of their local Woodland Creation Champion to help us decide which would be the most suited for us. Dewi came to visit us and we showed him round our land. He surveyed the site and looked at the views from the fields. He accounted for the wild flower meadow already here as well as an area with rare Colchicum Autumnale (Autumn Crocus). He noticed the very old trees growing in the neighbouring fields and of course pointed out to us that Dolforwyn Woods, an ancient woodland, is only just down the hill from us. Together, over a cup of coffee one sunny and warm Sunday morning in October, we made notes, gathered ideas and drew pictures and plans. We were very inspired by Dewi's knowledge, advice and guidance and decided we would go for the Tree Pasture pack of 20 trees: 10 sessile oak, 5 downy birch and 5 rowan, a higher land selection given that we are at about 600 ft. His visit also included ideas for future planting to include a forest garden and an orchard.
We placed our order and at the beginning of December, the trees got delivered by a local nursery. Almost immediately, we set about planting them in one corner of the biggest field. The land there is too narrow for machinery to access it and is at a fair incline so we chose to fill it with trees. It was hard work, wasn't it Peter? 20 holes to dig, 60 stakes to put in the ground to support the netting around the young trees. We wanted to make them sheep proof!! At a time when the weather was not on our side: a lot of rain and mud!
Dewi said to us: "Tree planting is the most unselfish thing you can do because you plant for the next generation", which is very true. The trees - at this stage, they are more like a thin, meagre-looking stick with no leaves - are in the ground, which required a lot of our time and effort, yet the reward will only be some time in the future, possibly long after we have left the property and even this world. There is no instant gratification in planting trees and yet, we feel satisfied, the kind of satisfaction that comes from doing something good, something generous, something long-lasting and positive for the environment.
Trees play an enormously important role on the Earth. In The Triumph of the Tree, John Stewart Collis writes "Trees acts as pegs, fountains, oceans, pipes and dams, their work ramifying throughout the whole economy of nature. They hold up the mountains. They cushion the rain-storm. They control the floods. They maintain the springs. They break the winds. They foster the birds". The effects of large-scale deforestation and loss of trees is now well documented: soil erosion at alarming rates, disastrous floods and devastating droughts, to indicate that trees play their part in balancing the ecosystem that is the Earth we live on.
The Woodland Trust has this sentence on their website "We believe life is better with trees" and gives a list of the many benefits of trees and reasons why planting trees is a good thing. For us, it was several reasons: for wildlife and conservation, for fuel (eventually!), for water and soil management, to counteract the negative effects of CO2 and greenhouse gases released in the atmosphere to name a few.
It feels good that our act of planting trees makes a positive ecological contribution, albeit a very tiny one! There's the reward: a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment for contributing to the greater health of Planet Earth, the one and only one we have.