At the edge of Haslingfield, next to the river Rhee, a new wood is growing. It was begun two years ago and is one of the 60 ‘Diamond Jubilee’ woods planted as part of a Woodland Trust’s project celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
A first swath of trees, roughly 5 acres, was planted in November 2012 by groups of local primary school children. They were able to see and contribute in a very practical way to their study of wildlife habitats. Subsequently, there was an open day when people from the community were inviting to bring spades, plant trees and enjoy a spot of mud wallowing. They managed to plant a further 700 trees. Each tree is marked with a post and protected by a guard. There are a mixture of species. I’ve seen willow, birch, spindle, hawthorn, hazel and ash.
Unfortunately, winter of 2012 was a pretty wet season and further planting was delayed by waterlogged ground and assessments for threat of Ash dieback disease. In fact, most years, at some point in the winter, the river floods into the newly wooded field. Luckily only one corner is persistently waterlogged. It remains unplanted.
A second phase of the project was carried out in autumn 2013 with far less fanfare. The planting in the original field was finished and a separate plantation in an adjacent, higher field was also completed. The sapling are planted in lines, but the lines are curves, large scale arcs reminiscent of the American crematorium in Madingley. This has given an immediately more natural feel to the area when viewed from a random position. As yet, management is fairly minimal. The grass was cut once between the trees last year and last week there was what looked like spraying for weeds under the saplings.
Two years down the line and it is already interesting to watch the evolution of the wood. The original saplings are at least twice the height of their guards. Last year they achieved some breadth and in the autumn the birch and spindle displayed a fair amount of colour. The one year old trees are mostly just tall enough to be peeking out of the guards. There are obvious signs of small mammals enjoying the cover and the field is a regular haunt of a barn owl.
It is going to be fun watching the changes.