West Berkshire Lockdown Woods give hope for the future.
During 2020 and 2021, under a variety of lockdown restrictions, over 1,000 young native decidiuous trees, many donated by the Woodland Trust, were planted in five ‘Lockdown Woods’ in the Newbury and Hungerford areas by Newbury Friends of the Earth and supporters to commemorate the hugely difficult period of disruption and sacrifice during the coronavirus pandemic.
All of the new woodlands (see below) will be managed sensitively, to encourage wildlife and increase biodiversity and the saplings need to be nurtured and watered. If you would like to join the working parties that do this on a regular basis in Newbury please contact Susan on [email protected] or visit the Lockdown Woods facebook group. For Hungerford woods, maintenance please contact Frances on [email protected]
The fifth Lockdown Wood was planted on Sunday 13 November in Hamstead Marshall.
A team of 22 Newbury Friends of the Earth members and friends gathered on Sunday 13 November to plant the fifth Lockdown Wood in a meadow belonging to Hamstead Marshall residents Hallam and Katie Goad. A total of 110 home-grown saplings were planted including a mixture of native broadleaved species, including many oaks, chestnuts, maple, silver birch, plus a few yews. A hedge was also planted with home-grown hazel, hawthorn and holly. All of the young trees were protected against deer grazing with recycled tree guards.
Newbury Friends of the Earth coordinator Dr Susan Millington, Lockdown Woods project leader said “We had a fantastic morning, in unseasonably warm dry weather. The unusual mild weather on the day emphasised how important it is for us all to take a range of actions to protect the health of our planet, and we are very happy to have planted well over 2,000 trees during the whole Lockdown Woods project. In time these will remove carbon from the atmosphere and lock it up in beautiful, life-giving woodlands. The field lies quite wet, so is not used for agriculture, making it a good spot for growing trees if the UK climate continues to get dryer in summer (while young trees elsewhere will need ongoing watering). Using saplings from parent trees growing locally gives an added advantage, as they will be better adapted to living in these particular conditions than any brought in from elsewhere. It was so heartening to see a group of friends coming together to do this important work and enjoy each other’s company at the same time”.
One of the organising team, Clive Williams said “This was a fantastic opportunity to combine community activity with helping the environment. It is good to think that many people have improved their mental wellbeing during the lockdown restrictions of the Covid pandemic by looking after and raising the saplings which we planted here today. I had a great day, and am very grateful to Hallam and Katie for letting us plant these precious trees in their beautiful meadow”.
The landowner, Hallam Goad, commented “We were fortunate to be included in this latest Lockdown Woods planting scheme, in part of our wildflower meadow, which is also used by the ‘Dancers’ Forest’, a project that is creating outdoor spaces for dance. It was an absolute pleasure to have everyone there, and my two daughters planted a couple of trees and had a cuppa!“
Stroud Green, Newbury
On Saturday 6 November 2021, 90 home-grown trees were planted on Stroud Green. Lockdown Woods volunteers were joined by local residents who brought saplings which they had been tending in pots since the first lockdown in May 2020. Over the weekend, about 75 people planted trees, including many families with young children.
Newbury Friends of the Earth member and Lockdown Woods project co-ordinator Dr Susan Millington said “This event has been a long time coming – we had hoped to invite people to plant their own trees last winter, but were prevented by the various lockdown restrictions. So I was delighted to see so many folk turning up with saplings large and small over this weekend, and to be part of creating another beautiful breathing space for Newbury and the planet. Many of these trees are memorials to loved ones lost during the pandemic, which makes them especially important. From an ecological point of view, it is beneficial to plant trees whose parents have grown in local conditions – they should grow stronger than those brought in from elsewhere. The national drive to plant more trees has led to a shortage of supply this season, so it is particularly good to have healthy local saplings, which have been cared for and will be tended for many years. We were delighted to be planting trees in West Berkshire on the Global Day of Action for the Climate [on Saturday], which we also marked by inviting donations to the charity Tree Aid, which runs tree planting and community projects across the Sahel in Africa.”
Newbury Deputy Mayor, Cllr Gary Norman, who joined in and planted several trees on Saturday, even bringing his own tools, said: “I am delighted and honoured to be invited to attend this tree planting today. There are very few silver linings to the massive dark cloud of Covid, but one such is the extraordinary way that local communities have been brought together as never before to create something positive out of it. This event today is an excellent example of that.”
Newbury Friends of the Earth member and one of the Lockdown Woods organising team Olivia Lockyear, said ”This project has meant a lot to me over the last two years, giving me a focus in confusing and challenging times. Yesterday was a sort of culmination of Lockdown Woods for me, meeting our dedicated tree guardians who have followed our project from the start and planting out this new area of woodland. A beautiful example of community spirit and pure love for the environment!”
Local teacher Sue Ridgard, said “Our oak tree appeared in our garden some years ago following our son’s interest in planting acorns, conkers and other items in the hope that they might grow. It’s important for young children to be aware of how they can help reduce our impact on the Earth’s resources. For us the [Lockdown Woods] project was simply about planting trees for the good of our local environment and community. The project provided the perfect opportunity to plant our tree locally. The boys were thrilled to be able to take part on Saturday and I’m sure that they will be regular visitors to Stroud Green to check on the progress of their tree”.
Hungerford is home to the largest Lockdown Wood at Westbrook Down, adjacent to Hungerford Marsh on the south side of the Kennet and Avon canal.
Previously the site of many majestic ash trees which had been felled recently owing to ash die-back disease this site was kindly donated by the Town and Manor of Hungerford for community woodland.
On Sat 5 Dec volunteers from Hungerford Environmental Action Team, St Lawrence’s Church and Friends of the Earth planted over 850 saplings (see video).
On Saturday 22 May 2021 participants gathered for a lovely dedication ceremony at Lockdown Wood in Hungerford (see video).
Please contact [email protected] if you can help with maintenance or future planting in Hungerford
Goldwell Park, Newbury
Over two hundred young trees donated by the Woodland Trust were planted by volunteers in December 2020 at the western side of Goldwell Park at the end of Northcroft Lane. These were later joined by 250 larger saplings, planted by West Berkshire Council.
In glorious autumn sunshine, groups of Lockdown Woods volunteers gathered with local residents to plant bulbs in Goldwell Park on 3 October 2021, About 30 people attended, including many families with young children, who really enjoyed popping tiny bulbs down holes.
Donations of a range of spring-flowering native bulbs and planting equipment were gratefully received from Dobbies Garden Centre, Thatcham Garden Centre, West Berkshire Council and Newbury Town Council.
Wash Common, Newbury
Newbury Friends of the Earth linked up with the Growing Newbury Green group, planting twelve fruit trees to extend their existing Community Orchard in Barn Crescent, Wash Common and a further 70 native woodland trees as part of the transformation of this field into another Lockdown Wood. Barn Crescent is Newbury Town Council land.
Another successful bulb planting day was held on 10 October 2021 at Barn Crescent.
Newbury Friends of the Earth
Newbury Friends of the Earth are very grateful to Newbury Town Council, Greenham Parish council and other groups for generous financial support.
Former Chair of Newbury Friends of the Earth, Adrian Foster-Fletcher says “It is imperative that over the next 25 years we double tree cover in the district to help biodiversity and fight climate change.”
Current Chair of NFoE, Dr Susan Millington, a Newbury-based environmentalist and lead for the Lockdown Woods project says “Everyone I’ve spoken to about this project thinks it is a great idea – to combine the environmental benefits of new woodlands with living memorials to the difficult times we have been through during the lockdown period, so that local people can have somewhere beautiful to relax while coming to terms with the losses they have experienced due to this pandemic. And their children will develop a personal relationship with trees they have planted in memory of loved ones, which we hope will transform into a lifelong love of nature. We would love more local residents to join us, growing, planting and tending our young trees for many years to come. Visit our Lockdown Wood Facebook group and website newburyfoe.co.uk.”
How to contribute a sapling
If you have been looking after saplings of native deciduous trees in pots, and they are now approaching 0.5m tall (which they need to be to survive in a wood) please,
- label them if you can (if you need help try using The Woodland Trust’s tree ID app )
- make sure to keep them watered