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Don’t leaf it too late to get free trees!

Beverley Gormley from The Woodland Trust urges us to plant more trees with free tree packs

It’s late summer. Rowan trees are full of ripening berries, elderberries are starting to darken and all too soon Britain’s deciduous trees will be treating us to a dazzling display of blazing autumn colour. Flurries of dancing leaves will be floating down to the ground, giving us a chance to kick through crunchy piles of leaves.

Are there many trees where you live? When I was young I used to walk to school through a tree-less almost post- apocalyptic Black Country landscape strewn with slag heaps and furnace waste from a long gone industry. It was an eyesore. One day I noticed piles of what I naively thought were twigs lying in neat rows on the ground.

On my way from school I saw that the ‘twigs’ had been planted and a protective plastic tube placed around each one. It took me most of the winter and spring months to realise that they weren’t actually twigs, they were saplings!

Over the next 20 years I watched the saplings grow, wishing that I could have been involved in their planting and the transformation of such an ugly piece of land into a peaceful haven for wildlife right next to a busy road. Now I walk through that labyrinth of field maple, silver birch, oak, hawthorn and blackthorn with my own kids and point out their nuts, seeds and berries. What was a barren, unloved landscape is now teeming with wildlife including badgers and great crested newts!

Nowadays I’m fortunate to have a job working for the Woodland Trust where I help community groups, schools and youth groups apply for free packs of saplings to enhance their neighbourhoods, provide food and homes for wildlife and for future firewood. We also have packs of trees that help bees! The Woodland Trust’s tree packs go to all sorts of groups and schools, from groups of neighbours to parish councils. You don’t have to be an ‘official’ group to be eligible.

Our free trees can be planted to help wildlife; create faith, or inter-faith, green spaces; for remembrance; to create a community gardens or allotments; or simply to enhance the local area. Planting trees is also a perfect way to help children and young people connect with and learn about nature, helping them become future guardians of the environment.

All you need to do is:

  • Find a piece of land in your local area that would benefit from trees
  • Ask the permission of the landowner and find some volunteers to help you plant
  • Choose your packs from the website and fill in our online application form (we’ll let you know by email if you’ve been successful)
  • Get together, have fun and enjoy planting!

The packs come in three sizes – 30 saplings, 105 saplings and 420 saplings in various themes (hedge, copse, wildlife, wild harvest, year-round colour, future firewood and wetland) and you can apply for as many as you like, in different themes, up to a maximum of 420 saplings. The deadline for applications for November deliveries is 13 September so don’t delay! If you’d like to apply for a pack for March 2014 we’ll be taking applications from late September.

Why spend years, as I did, wishing you’d planted some trees to enhance your neighbourhood? Do you know of a piece of land nearby that could do with some trees or a group of enthusiastic people who want to plant? Have a word in their ears and ask them to find out about applying for some of our free tree packs at: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/communitytrees.

After all, they do say “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

The tree packs have been generously funded by lead partners IKEA FAMILY and Biffa Award, also funded by Nicky and players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

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