Winter tree planting

Winter tree planting

It might be cold and wet and the daylight hours may be short, but winter is also tree planting season. Although we are rewilding the farm and letting nature take care of a lot of the landscaping, we’ve been trying to put in a helping hand and every winter since we got back to the farm in 2019 we’ve planted trees. We are very lucky to have a pocket of ancient oak woodland with a beck running through it as our western boundary and we not only want to preserve this woodland but to add to it. Everything we’ve planted is native and should fit into this landscape; blackthorn and hawthorn, hazel and field maple, hornbeam, rowan and willow, guelder rose and dog rose, elder and alder and of course oak.

What’s amazing to notice though is that for every tree we plant nature has planted 10 of her own! When we arrived back at the farm in 2019 the fields were like a bowling green as they’d been grazed by sheep, now there are blackthorn and hawthorn taller than we are, extending the hedges and the woodland out into the fields. Hopefully in time these scrubby hedgerow trees will provide the spiky protection for other trees to flourish, a natural deer guard if you will (love the deer but I do wish they’d stop eating my trees!).

This year we’ve been really lucky to get help and funding from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust (YWT) for planting trees and hedgerow reinstatement. This is all part of a scheme to improve the water quality of the River Esk – the beck that runs along the bottom of our farm (Long Rigg Beck) is one of the tributaries of the Esk and YWT are doing a host of schemes with farms along the beck to prevent farm run off and therefore improve water quality.

This time we’ve reinstated the hedgerow that stretches between the Writers’ Retreat and the Wild Woods field, and also the one on our Northern boundary – this one is particularly important as next doors cows have in the past been for more than one visit! This has also been the first year we’ve taken back the field with the view that you see as you arrive, as it was previously let to a farmer for hay, and we’ve started a tree planting scheme in there. In this field the hedgerow which would have stretched across it was completely missing and has been as long as Ed can remember, so instead of a straight line hedge we’ve created a number of copses of trees across the field in what is hopefully a more natural arrangement that will gradually fill out and stop it just being one big empty field. As always we are super grateful to some of our brilliant friends who came and helped and worked up an appetite on New Years Eve by helping us do lots of planting!

A wise man once said that the true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit, and whilst I know that I will never sit under the shade of the slow growing oaks we have planted, I sincerely hope old lady me gets to see some of our faster growing babies on their way to being big trees.

Verity Bellamy
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