Apologies for the delay in this blog. November and December came and went in a flash.
The first week of December saw the delivery of the woodland trees, all wrapped up on a pallet like a big Christmas present. Our planting weekend weather forecast was for a cold, windy and wet in parts weekend, and so it was. But you can’t change the weather, so all togged up we and our hardy small-but-perfectly-formed band of volunteers, Clare, Clive and Caroline, made their way across the paddock armed with spades and lump hammers.
The most time consuming part was moving around the various bits and pieces – the stakes and tubes for the trees and spiral and canes for the shrubs.
One stumbling block had been the lack of available information about planting woodlands. The general advice is to plant in wavy lines, with specimen trees in groups of ten to twenty trees, with shrubs planted around the outside to create a gradual incline to the larger trees.
In the event I marked out three large ovals for the three main groups of trees, an area for the coppice and another for the Sissinghurst-inspired nuttery. The simple task of marking out with a sports line-marking spray turned into something of a back breaking exercise as I needed to bend over and walk/spray so that it didn’t blow away as soon as it came out of the can. We then mowed the areas to shorten the grass and provide a more visual guide as to where to plant.
We began by planting a central tree in each of the three ovals and then pacing out roughly three meters in various directions to plant the rest. We notch planted (making a T-cut in the ground with the spade and then leaning back on the spade to open up the notch. After inserting the sapling in the centre it is then relatively easy to heel the sapling safely into the ground.) Gradually each little sapling was planted, covered by a protective tube, and staked in.
The wind and wild weather that followed that week gave them all a good watering and checked out our staking prowess.
Ninety-nine trees – willow, oak, sweet chestnut and hazel, were planted in the coppice. Neat rows of trees in 1.5m spacings.
Close-by walnut and sweet chestnut trees have been planted in rows to create a nuttery. I look forward to the day when the mature nuttery is underplanted with woodland plants – primroses and violets amongst others. I alluded earlier to Sissinghust Castle. If you have not visited before, it is definitely worth a trip. Wonderful gardens created with love and passion. I adore this quote from their website https://sissinghurstcastle.wordpress.com/category/the-nuttery/
For Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, the presence of an ancient nuttery and an Elizabethan tower in the grounds of Sissinghurst were enough to make them fall head over heels, with Harold writing on April 6th 1930 ‘We come suddenly upon a nut walk and that settles it…’ Never mind the fact that the rest of the house was virtually a ruin and totally uninhabitable; they had fallen in love with a nuttery and the rest, as they say, is history.
Planting the trees – the oaks - especially evoked a strange feeling of mortality. They could be here in hundreds of years time, long, long after we have all gone. Will someone be standing under one thinking “I wonder who planted that?” just like I do now under the beautiful oaks that stand in nearby Dillington Park.
Crab apples have been planted within the woodland but also around the edge of the orchard, which should be a huge boost to the fruit trees.
Meanwhile, there has been a rush on for plum and mulled wine jam! So much so, we are now out of stock. I’m glad others have found it so lovely. There will be more in the making very soon.