Sunday, 13 November 2011

Royalty, Rose-hips and Remembrance
Over fifty people turned up on the afternoon of Remembrance Sunday to plant 420 trees for a future wild harvest on Whitehead’s seafront. 
In our pack from the Woodland Trust, there was a single, carefully packaged and plainly very special tree; it was an oak sapling grown from seed collected on one of the Royal estates. As it happens, Brighter Whitehead and TTW had been represented a few days ago when the Princess Royal ceremonially planted the first tree of the Diamond Wood (although why it was planted in Carrickfergus and not Whitehead remains something of a mystery). 
So, Princess Anne told us a story about having planted some trees at Balmoral when she was a girl, and has now seen them harvested at the end of their useful lives. We all carefully avoided any discussion about the age of the trees.  
...and posers

Then, a few days later, we stumble across this tree that might once have been a Balmoral seed. At least, that’s what we’ll say when this “Royal Oak” is planted. We handed it over to Brighter Whitehead, afraid to take responsibility for this most significant sapling and in the certainty that they will give it the special treatment it deserves. (Should we have it placed in Balmoral Avenue - or perhaps Windsor?)

We can take some satisfaction that this ‘Royal Oak’ will help to restore Whitehead’s reputation for responsible gardening. After all, we managed to lose the last ‘Royal Tree’, a copper beech planted “on Whitehead Recreation Grounds” in 1937 to mark an earlier Royal jubilee; now, it’s nowhere to be found.

Seeing the Woods for the trees
Anyway, let me put aside this Royal ribaldry and get back to our planting. It was fantastic to see so many people, spanning the entire age range from children to grannies. This is our modest contribution to adding to Whitehead’s range of habitats - we’re a bit short of woodland. It’s like a starter pack for the Diamond Wood, where we’ll help to plant 60,000 trees in the next few months.

Most of our trees were planted to form a hedge; with a bit of luck and not too many on-shore gales, that hedge will be producing sloes, elderflowers and rose-hips within a few years, upon which we’ll all be able to zing our gin, create cordials and sup syrup. These will, indeed, be the fruits of our labours.  

On a slightly more serious note, it wasn’t lost to me that here, on Remembrance Sunday, we were planting some trees - those most long-lived of organisms. And there can’t be too many acts of remembrance that are better than that.

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