Each winter we head off across the fields to check which of the farm trees need a tidy up. That might involve pollarding one of the ash trees, removing low branches that will interfere with farm machinery, or making sure that there are no signs of disease. Some of the trees will have had to put up with several generations of farmers prodding and poking them now.
These trees provide vital habitat for farmland birds, mammals and insects. So it is our job to make sure that they continue to thrive. For the past couple of years we have been planting new trees around the farm. The aim is to join up wildlife corridors and habitat across our 80 acres, but also to ensure that replacements for our older, established trees are put in place now so that there are always mature trees among the mix.
Every year the Woodland Trust offer tree packs, for free, to anyone who would like to plant trees on their land. It is a fantastic scheme and in December 2019 we collected a mixed pack of ninety native trees, including Oak, Hornbeam, Field Maple, Wild cherry and Crab apple. Over two wintry days we planted these tiny saplings along natural farm borders such as field edges and watercourse banks. We have just completed a check on their health and I am pleased to say that we only had a 4% loss, with a further 10% of maybes that we will check on again later in the spring. Most have new buds waiting for some warmth and sunshine.
We picked up a further pack of one hundred trees just before Christmas and the next few days will be spent replacing losses from last year and creating new corridors in areas we didn’t quite reach last time. We are also working with our local Tree Warden to plant a new hedge along part of the public lane that runs next to the farm.
I have included a screen shot of our Field Margin app, which I couldn’t live without. It allows me to plot all of the trees, hedges and watercourses around the farm on a single map that I can put in my pocket and carry with me. So the tradition of looking after the farm environment continues as it always has – it is just recorded on an app now rather than a sheet of paper!
I might not see these new trees reach full maturity, but it doesn’t matter. My children will, and then it will be their turn to make the annual treck across the fields with tree pruning gear across their shoulders and an app in their pocket. I know they will love it as much as I do.