West Berkshire Lockdown Woods give hope for the future.
Newbury Friends of the Earth has created four local Lockdown Woods to commemorate the hugely difficult period of disruption and sacrifice during the coronavirus pandemic.
All of the new woodlands 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Lockdown Woods facebook group. For Hungerford woods, maintenance please contact Frances on email@example.com
Background to Lockdown Woods
Over 1,100 young native deciduous trees donated by the Woodland Trust were planted in community events during December 2020 and January 2021, under a variety of lockdown restrictions. The fourth wood, at Stroud Green in Newbury, was planted with saplings grown by local residents in November 2021.
Stroud Green, Newbury
On Saturday 6 November 2021, 90 home-grown trees were planted on Stroud Green in Newbury.
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”.
HungerfordHungerford is home to the largest site 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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help with 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.
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. West Berkshire Council have allocated part of Goldwell Park so that we can plant a wood to last in perpetuity and use it as a place to remember loved ones lost to this devastating virus in 2020. We hope this is the first phase of collaboration of the council with local environmental groups to dramatically increase tree planting and natural regeneration of wild areas, vital to a healthy future for us all.”
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