This week was national tree week and to celebrate Jenson and I got involved in a brand new environmental project in Stratford-upon-Avon. Organised by registered charity Forest of Hearts we got involved in their challenge to plant 1000 trees in one day to create a new woodland habitat called Honey Bee Wood.
Our friends, Ally and her daughter Arabella, also joined us and over the course of the morning we planted 13 new oak trees. Now that might not sound like very many but the organiser said that even if we only planted one tree, it was one tree closer to creating a new woodland. It felt really good to be doing something so positive and what a wonderful initiative for Jenson to be involved with. This was our chance to do something for the environment in a world where it feels like every inch of green space is being gobbled up by new houses. What better way for him to learn about how important bees are than outdoors in the fresh air building a brand new woodland for them. Twenty five years from now Jenson can return to Honey Bee Wood, perhaps with a family of his own, and he'll be able to see the trees he planted and can feel extremely proud of himself.
The day began at 11am with a quick briefing about the five acres of woodland we would be helping to build. The aim of Honey Bee Wood would be to create an apiary with twelve hives, provide plants to support bees, to create a place for education and to create a a biodiverse habitat. The speaker went on to comment about how kids these days don't have the opportunity to get out; they don't even know the names of different birds or the names of trees, adding at the end of her sentence - present company excepted.
There were severn circles marked out in the field and the aim was to fill each one with oak, alder, beech, a harvest mix, hornbeam and silver birch with one circle to be left empty in the middle as an open space. Canes marked where a sapling needed to be planted. A 150m long hedgerow was also being planted to act as a mini break for the trees behind and would include hawthorn, blackthorn and gelder rose.
All the saplings were donated by the Woodland Trust as part of their Lets keep Britain Green campaign. The trees donated by the Woodland Trust were paid for by business like Ikea and Waitrose.
We were told that by planting this new woodland we weren't just looking after honey bees but also solitary bees, of which there are 270 types. Planting more trees also helps with co2 levels: over the course of a tree's life time it will absorb around a ton of co2.
We began by collecting our sapling bundle, which was a joint effort: Arabella chose the tree species, (oak) and Jenson carried them over to the site where we would be working. We shared the circle with other volunteers and together planted up the trees.
We next had to dig the turf off the top of the area to be planted. I was so impressed with Jenson's attitude. I don't think I dug a single hole from the eight trees Jenson planted so enthusiastic was he about doing it all himself. Where the ground was exceptionally tough I stepped in, quite literally, to lend a foot. We quickly mastered a good technique: jump up and down on the spade repeatedly with two feet. This gave Jenson much joy as the spade wobbled precariously and often skewed out from underneath him!
Next came the planting. We had been instructed to plant up to the collar of the sapling and no deeper. Plant them too deep and they would rot.
We then cut the turf in half and laid it the wrong way up either side of the tree, this would help to stop any weeds growing around the sapling and potentially overrunning it. We then sprinkled a layer of mulch over the area.
Ta-da!! Jenson's first oak tree planted! In 25 years time he can come back and see how much his tree has grown, now that is something to be proud of.
The final stage of the tree planting process was to wrap a protective spiral around the outside of the sapling to stop rabbits and deer eating them. These will stay on for a few years.
It was lovely to watch Jenson and Arabella knuckle down together. Once our circle of trees was complete we encouraged the children to do a quick check that all the saplings had been planted correctly. They noticed that quite a few of them, (not ours I hasten to add) were missing protective spirals. With very little help from Ally or I they managed to locate and successfully wrap over a dozen or so trees that were missing this key component.
They also went around and did some extra mulching. Here Jenson is running back from the wheelbarrow for the umpteenth time with a handful of the stuff to scatter around another sapling.
These saplings are the first four oak trees that Jenson and Arabella planted.
After an hour or so of hard work, the children spent another hour playing in the long grass surrounding the site. It was so lovely to see. The sun was shining, the children were laughing and their lungs and minds were full of the fresh air of the countryside. Jenson literally threw himself head first into the grass doing roly-polies, grass angels and playing hide and seek with Arabella. He has such a real zest for life and such enthusiasm too.
After a hard day's work Jenson helped to carry the tools back.
I will genuinely miss these days when the children start school in January, it's not something I'm looking forward to. When I see how much Jenson is thriving and growing as an individual, the opportunities that home education brings can not be matched.