Want to feel better? Plant a tree

For the ‘Talking Trees’ column in the latest issue of Broadleaf, the magazine of that great organisation the Woodland Trust, I was asked to write about planting some trees in the corner of a field.

Remembering my little arboreal adventure, I realised how important trees are to my daily life, past, present and future. Is this a sign of age?

Here, anyway is the article:

Ten years ago, we  planted a wood in the corner of a field in south Norfolk.

We were a relatively new couple, Angela and I, and we had been living in a caravan while, nearby,  a shed which had once been a hatchery for geese was converted into a house. The land around  seemed a little agricultural and sparse. It needed the life and variety that trees can bring.

Today the new house has grown up and, in the way of these things,  we take it for granted. The trees, on the other hand, have retained their capacity to surprise, excite and, just occasionally, disappoint.

Can there be anything more satisfying than planting a wood? The original impulse may have  a touch of vanity to it – you are about to make your own little mark on the landscape – but nature soon puts you in your place. If the species you choose are wrong for the area, they either quickly die  or, worse, look ridiculous. If you have chosen well, they are soon nothing to do you but belong to the landscape.

We planted trees which seem to like this part of East Anglia: alder, hornbeam, oak and hazel, a couple of walnuts. Buying stock was a special pleasure because our supplier, Eddie Krutysza of the nearby village of Metfield, brings such love and knowledge to his work, takes such care in selecting saplings from his field of growing trees that, even though money changes hands, the trees feel like a gift.

Then there were real presents.  Family and friends took to giving us trees. They turn out to be the perfect present – the gift, as the cliché goes, that keeps on giving. To the pleasure of watching each tree grow is added a daily reminder of the person who gave it to you.

In our little wood, there are some wild cherries given to us by my mother in what turned out to be the last year of her life. A wild pear was donated by my good friend and neighbour Roger Deakin who wrote so brilliantly about our relationship to trees in Wildwood. An 18 inch oak was rescued by another good friend  from her allotment in Hammersmith. In the manner of Londoners, it has quickly made itself at home and is dominating its surroundings.

Over the years, we have added to the wood. Elms, which grow defiantly in all the wrong places, are relocated and shoot skywards in a doomed, live-fast-die-young way. We have planted some holly, a particular favourite of hares and rabbits, to provide an under-storey when the wood grows up.

Saplings have become trees. The alders and some of the hornbeams are now over 30 foot high. We tour our little wood every day, taking pleasure in how the trees are growing and changing.

 In the dry early summer of this year, the first seedling from  the alders and my mother’s wild cherries have begun to appear. The next generation is on its way.

To join the Woodland Trust, here is the place.