The Tree And The Perfect Hedgerow

Buddha, Bodhi’s and a hedgerow passion…

Buddha said that “A tree is a wonderful living organism which gives shelter, food, warmth and protection to all living things. It even gives shade to those who wield an axe to cut it down”

How true! How sad and how accurate is this? Trees are truly magical and have been supporting the backbone of human development for millennia, so it’s so cool that tree & hedgerow planting is now, well…cool again! In Scotland, and in large parts of the nation there’s a huge dearth of trees. I can’t believe that a little under 6000 years ago Scotland was one big forest, running coast to coast and teeming with life. Wild boar, Wolves, Elk, Brown bears, bison, and not forgetting copper butterflies and apple bumble bee’s!

Yep, if there is one thing we humans are good at, its completely altering where we live! That said it’s very easy to look back over 6000 years and tut at the terribly tragic list of what’s gone forever, but the truth is that the pace of change is still with us and it’s just that we are just watching it in slow motion instead. A pretty shocking change in tree population in Scotland, where it declined to an unbelievable low of 5% just a hundred years ago! Gloomy eh?

To Tree or not to tree

So what’s the scoop now? A continuing terminal decline without a fleeting hope of recovery? We’ll not quite…. Roll forward 100 years until today and Scotland now has 18% of its land mass in forest and woodland and it’s growing! Literally. New initiatives , new hope and a target of restoration to 22% by 2030.

So why is it all vitally important to recovery the woodland and hedgerows, and why is it now the super cool thing to do? The facts are that without the tree’s were screwed! Literally knackered, as they play possibly the most important role in the whole ecosystem, of not only Scotland, but the entire planet. Imagine what would happen if the bee population dies out, or birds no longer had safe havens and the ability to breed? Basically, it all stops and many forms of life stop with it. Pollination is essential to plant life and if this halts, with it the failure of practically every harvested crop halts too.

Trying to reverse 5000 years of forest clearing for cultivation isn’t easy, or reversing the industrial stripping of forests by the Vikings, who needed the wood to make their pointy ships to match their equally pointy hats will take time, but it’s going in the right direction for once. We have learned some hard lessons from history and there is saying that I know, that even monkeys can fall from trees. I probably did not fully appreciate what that meant when I first heard it, but now that I am part of the true planting set, I can see that what it means is that even the most intelligent and advanced species can make mistakes, and let’s be honest we’re 99% monkey as well.

Monkey Tree

We know know that trees not only provide climate stability, they bring life and biodiversity way beyond any artificial method possible. So, where do we fit in at Harestone Moss? And what are we doing to help. Now, before we start, and don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with everybody planting a tree or two, and if everybody took this up in practice, it’s a major step. Unfortunately not everybody has the ability or access to a garden or scrap of land, so some need to assist others in keeping the average tree planting numbers up, and this is what drives us to plant, plant, then plant even more. We are so lucky to have 70 acres of land, so we’ve gone tree planting mad, and are in the process of planting 15000 hedgerow saplings! It’s a crazy high number, but the space this will provide for nesting birds, feeding bee’s and hosts of insects essential for a balanced ecosystem, will be amazing. A proper haven for a massive amount of wild life and we have not even got to the planting trees yet…

Harestone Hedgerow planting …

Clicking numbers on a keyboard is easy and totting up with a calculator is even easier, but when numbers are conveniently converted into physical items, all of a sudden the reality of planting 15000 individual items is like being slapped with a wet fish! 15,000 is a lot, so we acclimatized by saying that we plant in three batches of 5000, as it’s much easier to deal with. Planting hedgerows is ALL labour, so it’s really all down to working smarter and setting small attainable goals. When planting, saying that its only 4870 to go is the glass half empty way, and it’s a sure fire way to weary out any intrepid foot soldier. Setting a number goal is easier. As they say, you can eat an elephant, but its best one bite at a time, so when split into bite sized chunks, it’s not the worst task on a nice day.

So last weekend (27/11/22), now mentally prepared, and with stacked pallets of saplings, 5000 canes and 5000 Tubex protectors the task was set before us, but this time we were armed and prepared. Custom trees spears were made by Gavin and a distance setting jig firmly in hand we set about our task.

Now I should point out again, that having been indoctrinated into the farming life relatively recently, any new farm experience can be daunting for me. Also, up until a few years ago a fork was for Bolognese and a spade was in a deck of cards, so after googling “how long does it take to….” I started to immediately think forward to a hot soak in the bath at the end of the day, and had cunningly omitted from my thoughts how my poor arms would feel at the end of it. To be honest, I surprised myself! The tools made were perfect and the spacing jig sped everything to a blurry session, and before I knew it, we were done. Not the 5000 batch you understand, but the whistle had been blown and we were clocking off. Five hours 20 minutes later we had planted, staked and protected 600 saplings in military fashion. I was delighted.

So our hit squad of Gavin, my dad and myself had breezed through 600 and averaged over 100 an hour between us. Camera on standby to record the feat, and after a quick tidy up we retired for the day. I was impressed and happy. My arms were intact and so was my confidence in obtaining a new virtual badge for services rendered to the tree population of Alba. The battle was won, there were no casualties and I was ready for the next time, or next weekend, as I was swiftly informed…

Next weekend my sister, her partner and young son are coming for a sleepover, maybe I’ll try to get them to plant some too as part of my recruiting drive? Who knows, it may rub off, but as my nephew is called Bodhi already, perhaps it’s a sign?

The Bodhi Tree was a large and very old sacred fig tree (Ficus religiosa). It was at the Mahabodhi Temple at Bodh Gaya. The spiritual teacher and founder of Buddhism, later known as Gautama Buddha, achieved Bodhi (spiritual enlightenment) while sitting under this tree. The Bodhi tree is easily recognised because of its heart-shaped leaves” How apt!!!

Rewilding Harestone Moss

I am so excited to be at the beginning of our rewilding journey, and who knows where this will take us. What I do know is that it will be fun, rewarding, challenging and I am ready for the ride, nature is ready too…

Find out more about our rewilding plans