Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Planting Trees

'When is the best time to plant a tree?' 'About 20 years ago' said the wise one!

When we first moved to Baildon in the 1990s the route we took to visit family in Gloucestershire was along the A42 from the M1 to the M5. It gave me real delight to see the planting of the National Forest in the area around that route. It is now a good number of years since I last travelled that road and I would love to see how the National Forest has developed and how the trees have grown. They have now planted over nine million trees1 and there are plans to establish a National Forest in Wales.

Trees are important to us for many reasons. They are the lungs of the world: a mature tree can absorb up to 150kg of CO2 per year2. So, they are massively important in combating climate change. Trees support a huge range of wildlife from the large through to the microscopic, from deer, squirrels, birds and bats, insects, bacteria, and fungi. It is estimated that a mature British Oak can support an estimated 2,300 species of wild life3. Trees are important for building, paper, fruit, furniture and fuel. Lastly but not least, trees are important for our quality of life. They can give a sense of well-being, tranquillity, remove pollution and lower temperatures in our urban areas4.

Tree cover is very limited in the United Kingdom. It is estimated that only 13% of the land in the UK is covered by trees compared to 37% in Europe. The situation is even worse in Northern Ireland where there is only 8% tree cover. Trees get cut down for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes for road and housing development, removing hedges, tidying up gardens, improving views and only occasionally for safety reasons. A very serious threat to trees now is the emergence of Ash Die Back disease that could cause the removal of between 75- 95% of all ash trees in the country5.

The Woodland Trust is promoting the planting of trees in our country. They want to work with others to increase the tree cover in the UK to 17%6.

An important bonus to this will be the creation of more native woodland habitat for wildlife boosting biodiversity. They are providing free packs of trees for schools and community groups to plant in their local areas.

The Mission and Society Committee support this call to plant trees and so they brought a proposal to Synod to ask the Moravian Church nationally and locally to identify areas of Church land that can be used for the planting of native trees. They also want individual Church members who own land to look and see if it is possible to plant native trees on their land. They also asked that the Church nationally and locally, and individual members let the Mission and Society Committee know about land that has been planted so that the committee can quantify how many trees, and acreage, have been planted as a result of this campaign. They were delighted when this proposal passed and became a resolution of Synod.

We know that we may only be able plant small numbers of trees compared to the big charities but individual pockets of trees and secure protected local habitats are so important for wildlife. Good planting in urban areas can make a real difference to the feel of areas and the sustainability of local populations of insects and birds. So, don't think that a small contribution will not count because it will, it is part of a greater whole.

The Queen's Green Canopy is another charity asking for people to plant a tree or trees to mark the Queen's Platinum Jubilee in 2022. I was very privileged to be asked to record just a very short segment for a video promoting this initiative. Individuals and community groups, youth organisations, faith groups and others will be encouraged to play their part to enhance our environment by planting trees from October, when the tree planting season begins, through to the end of the Jubilee year in 2022. It is hoped to create a legacy in honour of The Queen's leadership of the Nation, which will benefit future generations.

Trees are an important part of our faith story. The Bible starts with a garden and a tree in the midst - the tree of life, and it ends in Revelation 22 with the tree of life with leaves for the healing of the nations. In one beautiful parable Jesus suggests that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny seed that grows into an enormous tree that supports the birds of the air - the kingdom of heaven like a tree which supports and protects life. (Matthew 13:31-32)

So how to go about this and where to get the trees from. Firstly, look at the land or space that you have available, and aim to plant the right trees in the right place. How boggy or dry is the land, how big will your proposed trees grow and what impact will they have on neighbours and nearby buildings. Can you apply to the Woodland Trust for trees? Are there local grant schemes for tree planting? Can you propagate your own trees from willow or hawthorn quicks or plant acorns or conkers etc? Can you buy certified stock from a local nursery? Can you protect the small trees from rabbits, sheep and deer? This need not be a costly project. If you can't plant a tree or trees on your property, can you donate to a charity that is involved in planting trees?

Trees are best planted between October and March so if it is too late to do something this year it is better to plan and wait until next year. It may also give you time to look at grants that may be available. If you want to plant a tree(s) for the Queen's Green Canopy you can download a template for a plaque from the QGC website.

It is a wonderful opportunity to join with others in doing something positive. In November last year I did a bit of guerrilla gardening with some local children - we planted, with the permission of the local land owner, a pile of willow slips in some boggy ground. It has been a delight to see them come into leaf this spring and I can't wait to see their growth through the summer.

The Mission and Society Committee would share in that delight when we hear at Synod 2022 about the trees planted this year in the autumn and at Synod 2024 about trees planted in 2022, and 2023 - not just as our Church's Christian commitment to the good of our world.

Old Trees are a witness to past events and young trees are a symbol of hope for the future.

Sr Sarah Groves
Mission and Society Committee and Gracehill

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Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
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