Celebrating with trees

I was delighted to read that there is to be a mammoth planting of trees to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee. It will be called the Jubilee Wood Project and new areas of woodland are to be planted across Britain, one for each year of the Queen’s reign. The Queen planted the first on her Norfolk estate, but local children also joined in. It reminded me of the many times in the past when I have been involved in a similar project, because you don’t have to be the Queen in order to plant a few trees. Here I am with my Guide company planting a row of trees beside the River Kent in Kendal.

They are still alive, I’m pleased to say, and all those young girls involved are now young mums and can savour the pleasure of having added to the town’s charms.

Trees are also wonderful memorials to departed loved ones, so much better than a few flowers on a grave that will wither and die.

They that say planting trees is an unselfish act because you may not live to see them mature. That depends, of course, what you plant. We once planted a wood of a thousand trees, on the two and a half acres (one hectare) when we lived in the Lake District.

We sought advice from the Forestry Commission on what to plant and on the day the advisor came, it was one of those typical Lakeland days, the rain sheeting down and blowing a gale. Undaunted, he and I put on our waterproofs and walked the land, not large, but high up on Shap fell, and talked, or rather shouted above the wind about what to plant where. He suggested oak and ash on the lower field, protected by the faster growing soft woods such as pine above, interspersed with hazel, rowan and silver birch, all indigenous species. He was totally against sycamore as he called these weeds. And we opted for a copse of Scots Pine on the bluff.

We bought the whips, as young trees are called, from a specialised nursery in the borders of Scotland, on the basis that if they could withstand Scottish weather, they could cope with the Lakes. We heeled them in first of all, to keep them alive, and then began the task of digging. It was great fun, not at a chore at all, and some of the pines we planted did go in lines so that we could easily locate them, but the hard woods were more decoratively spaced within their shelter. The entire family took part, including our two daughters, with the dogs doing their best to hinder us. We took some stick from local farmers who accused us of planting fox cover, but we felt it was a celebration of our love for the house and the area.

Today, 30 years on, we no longer live in that house. But we can still go back and visit the wood to view it from afar. Somewhat overgrown now, in parts, but from it a tree is given every year to the local church at Christmas time, and it still thrives. To me it is a memorial to the happy family life we enjoyed in that house.

Have I ever written about my love of trees? Of course, writers always use their personal memories and anecdotes whenever they can. Trees feature strongly in GRACIE’S SIN, a story of the timber Jills in World War Two. And THE BOBBIN GIRLS, set in Grizedale Forest. Interestingly, these are two of my most popular books, so maybe lots of other people love trees too. If so, then go out there and plant some, if it’s only one in your garden. So go on, be like the Queen and celebrate with trees.

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