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Beautiful tree in autumn colours



I’m Grounded, Are You?


29th August 2023

My family have a tradition of growing trees from seeds. Every year while out walking, we carefully collect sprouting nuts and seeds and plant them either in pots or appropriate open spaces.

It’s lovely to nurture the young saplings, but despite our TLC dozens perish for every one that flourishes. A constant reminder how the odds are always stacked against trees. Over a lifetime of planting I can point out quite substantial oaks, holly, beech, apple and hawthorn all sown by my hand. The pleasure it’s brought to my life, I hope in turn, will be shared by my own children as they grow.

I’d never really considered this before, but the current dreadful loss of rainforest got me thinking when and why I started my one ‘boy’ planting campaign. In the 1970’s, I saw first-hand the shocking loss of magnificent mature elms to the ravages of Dutch elm disease. Simultaneously, I witnessed the clearances brought about by the intensification of British farming. In just a few short years, my landscape changed from John Constable’s countryside to a barren cereal monoculture.

mature hedgerow with trees

My childhood memories include the loss of every mature English elm tree growing in the area, (previously I could count them in the 100’s) along with the loss of my equally beloved hedgerows and pastures and all the wildlife they supported. The loss was devastating and long lasting, for a young lad who lived to be outdoors.

Nowadays there’s a lot of buzz about the planting of trees, for the benefit of the planet and for our own individual wellbeing. ‘Trees,’ they highlight as if newly discovered, ‘lock in carbon, take particulates from the atmosphere, exhale oxygen and cool the air.’ Yup, it’s all true, and why London was so densely planted in the 1800’s with London planes. A tree specifically grown and planted to help clean the air of soot and pollution from the coal burning city.

Oak sapling being planted

I think due to the mess we’ve made of the countryside, or perhaps just my rebellious nature, I’ve always been seeding where others were cutting. Planting where others ploughed and distributing where others collected. I’m still distributing wildflower seeds in the remaining hedgerows, planting trees wherever I go and supporting wildlife rather than killing it, it’s in my DNA. Whether Ark Wildlife is a direct result of Dutch elm disease I’ll never know, but my energy and enthusiasm to keep going is increased by the escalating human disconnect with nature.

British countryside full of hedgerows

While I’ve never danced naked in the woods, and don’t recall hugging a tree, I’m happy to confess I do stop to praise the grand old specimens pausing to touch the bark and take in their magnificence. Environmental benefits aside, I liken a tree to a bustling metropolis packed with wildlife at every level, from root tip to canopy top, a multi-story nerve centre of life. Trees are brilliant for the planet and brilliant for wildlife, but I think I plant trees simply because they make me happy. From collecting the seeds, to planting and watching them grow, or simply walking under a cool summer woodland canopy, trees bring me joy and ask nothing in return, not a penny. So, if the Government say plant a million trees, I say plant 50 million, and make that only the start!

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