We've had a busy few months since Christmas planting trees in Headley Down Nature Reserve (HNDR), Farnham and Wales (twice), plus holding the first of many plant and seed swaps at Farnham Maltings. We're just shy of 5,000 trees in the ground, in total, since we established in 2021, but we'll smash that come autumn!
HDNR - from tip to tranquility
HDNR is such an impressive place run by equally impressive people. Angela, Chair of the HDNR Trust, has uncovered the site's fascinating past, from being family-owned, to being used as a Canadian detention camp in World War II, and a home for local families when the war had ended.
Unfortunately, in I959 Alton District Council decided to use the site for refuse, until the 1970s when the land was bulldozed and covered over. The Heatherlands Estate was built on top of this, and HNDR runs alongside it. This meant that a large part of our initial work was to clear litter before planting. It was sad/fascinating/inspiring to uncover items from the past with every rake and dig - one person found a bullet cartridge - but absolutely heart breaking to see so much litter. At the same time there was a real sense of pride to help rectify mistakes of the past, and to be helping transform the space into a biodiverse orchard with a mixture of fruit trees and spring bulbs.
Since the donations for this work came from sound bathing company, Healing Frequencies, we decided to name to space Healing Hill. It's just one patch in the tranquil, bird-filled paradise created by Angela, Roger and their team at HDNR, but we're all so proud of it, and hope nature and local families will enjoy it for years to come.
Wales - a weekend restoring nature
In north Wales, at the tip of Snowdonia National Park, we rewilded an abandoned farm with a 1.5k trees (hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, crabapple, field maple, dog rose, elder, oak, rowan, birch, alder and willow). Each was planted with a cane for support and biodegradable guard. It took fair few hours to plant them but was great to see once finished. And the landowner has offered to water them. Brilliant!
It was a strange experience digging down into rocky coal slag, and amazing to learn from park Ranger, Ewan, that the entire site (land, river and houses) was once covered in black coal dust. It looks lush and green today, but clearly that's only on the surface. The trees, which were an impressive 9 ft high, will look beautiful in the autumn when their leaves turn read, and will offer some much-needed shade on the grassy field they were planted in. I can't wait to pop back in soon and see them covered in leaves.
Farnham Park - maintenance & hedging
It was a such a tough summer last year, and I lost track of how many times we popped to Farnham Park to water trees. To make things difficult, our three planting sites are spread far apart, and can only be accessed on foot. For most of the summer, pre-hose pipe ban, I was filling up water carriers and walking them through the park in the evenings. It was tough, but meant we kept 265 of 291 trees alive. The few that didn't make it were replaced this spring and were planted with irrigation tubes to make watering easier; last summer the earth was like concrete so water went everywhere but down.
We've installed water butts on site too, to save using the tap - an idea I'm going to carry forward to future plantings.
On another note, we helped plant a mixed specie hedge (300+ trees) in a different part of the park to act as a wildlife corridor (a strip of natural habitat connecting populations of wildlife otherwise separated by cultivated land).
Hedges are great for biodiversity, and it'll be great to see birds, butterflies and hundreds of other insects and small mammals moving in as it grows. Ranger Nick MacFarlane will make sure the hedge is looked after.
UCA - students & the future
At the start of the year, we were honoured to be contacted by UCA who asked us to be part of their Green Week. It was great. We gave away wildflowers and gained some volunteers for future tree planting. We 're looking forward to them joining us!
Talking plants whilst swapping them
Back in November 2022, we put a seed bank in the Maltings (see here), which has been a big hit with the local community. To add to this, we hosted a community Plant & Seed Swap event at the Maltings in March, which turned out to be a busy morning. It was great to meet some of the seed bank users in person, and to take a load of different plant species home. We're busy planning in the next one now - a Fruit & Seed Swap in October.
Farnham in Bloom - a sneak look behind the scenes
I never knew so much work went into Farnham in Bloom. After having seen the sheer volume of home-grown plants used for the various hanging baskets, planters and displays around town, I have a newfound respect for the council. Although I've only helped once, by potting on dahlias and other plants, it was amazing to see the number of volunteers ready to help, and meet the man in charge, John. I'm looking forward to helping more with this moving forward.
That's everything to date. We'll be at Farnham Sustainability Festival this Sunday (11 - 5pm) selling potted trees (silver birch, rowan and crabapple) and branded eco products, plus we'll have some games for kids. I will be giving a talk on Biodiversity at 12:30 too. Hopefully see you there.