|Near the entrance to Devil's Glen, County Wicklow, Ireland|
National Tree Week is 23rd November to 1st December this year.
20 years ago I and around 30 other volunteers celebrated National Tree Week by helping Professor Martin Haigh plant 1,000 trees directly into a coal spoil heap in south Wales. This is a land reclamation technique pioneered in Bulgaria, which they found is more successful in stabilising the land and kick-starting soil formation than the grassing over we're more familiar with.
Martin was trying to find the right combination of native trees for the UK which would replicate the Bulgarian results. We planted alder and willow which could withstand the soggy, claggy material, plus Scots pine and oak. The idea was the first three species were sacrificial and would help protect the oak; this would then grow on to form the mature woodland.
In 1993 we planted in the snow - as well as having the odd snowball fight - and these trees went on to grow more rapidly than those planted in previous years. I like to think the harsher conditions - and the usual ones were pretty bad - helped them make better use of the summer warmth which followed. Martin always named his research plots after key people involved in the project, such as his Bulgarian colleagues. I'm proud to say part of that 1993 plot - situated on a very bleak hillside near Big Pit - is named after me.
What tree planting plans - if any - do you have this month?
NB The Woodland Trust has packs of free trees for schools, universities and community groups to apply for now ready for planting in spring 2014. Packs of 30, 105 and 420 trees are available in a variety of themes to include short hedge and small copse for the small pack; and wild harvest, wildlife, year-round colour, working wood, wetland and wild wood for the medium and large packs.