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Reminiscences of the Jubilee Wood


                   an article by Phillip Ward

Phillip Ward.
On 10 November 2012 more than a hundred Helmdon residents of all ages came together to plant 400 tiny saplings and create a wood. Named the Jubilee Wood to mark the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen, an oak sapling grown from an acorn from the Royal Estate at Sandringham was given pride of place.

The planting was the culmination of months of preparation by a small informal group of volunteers meeting in the Bell (as the village pub was then known). The first task was to find a landowner who could make a suitable site available. A general appeal and approaches to local farmers initially drew a blank, until the village grapevine made a connection to Lee and Leigh Sparrow who owned the field next to their house on the outskirts of the village. They were both keen to see more trees planted and were keen to help. The field was certainly large enough and was criss-crossed by public footpaths allowing access for walkers and those who just want to enjoy the space and the views over the open countryside.

Location and layout of the Jubilee Wood. (Photo: Charles Binns)

Saplings ready for planting (photo: Charles Binns)
With a site secured, the search turned to a source for the trees. Fortunately, the Woodland Trust, a charity devoted to preserving and creating woodlands, were looking to support local initiatives to create new woodland their requirements, provided it would be accessible to the public. Thanks to Lee and Leigh’s generosity the Jubilee Wood met their requirements and 400 bare root "trees" duy arrived in a surprisingly small cardboard box, accompanied by 400 bamboo supports and plastic tree guards. The trees were a mix of cherry, silver birch, rowan and oak. The intention to include ash saplings in the mix was hastily abandoned to avoid the risk of spreading then new outbreak of “ash die back” disease.

Two final ingredients were required. In order to prevent the newly planted trees being overwhelmed by the grasses around them, mulch mats were needed. Contacts in the recycling industry identified Greenstream Flooring, a not-for-profit company in Wales which was happy to donate 400 end of life carpet tiles for just the cost of transport.

Finally, the wood needed people. While a small group of volunteers could have planted all 400 trees, it was seen as important to engage the people of Helmdon and help them value the wood. It was decided to organise a planting event and to get as many people as possible involved. Invitations were delivered by hand to every house with the added inducement of refreshments (including cake without which no Helmdon event is complete). People were also given an opportunity to buy a tag to put their name on a tree.

Some of the volunteers at the end of the planting.

(Photo: Charles Binns)

In the event, attempts to count those present were halted once the number passed 100 as people emerged from Cross Lane and all the footpaths, armed with spades. One or two even arrived with their own trees they wanted to add to the wood. Enough tags were sold to cover the costs and many of the trees are now dedicated to families and the children who helped plant them, to the Helmdon Guides who came along as a group or in memory of those from the village who had passed on.

The Jubilee Wood

in Spring 2020.

Nine years on, the tiny saplings are now recognisably trees but have more growing to do. As they grow, they will improve the habitat for wild life and absorb carbon dioxide from the air. Efforts to encourage wildflowers, and the planting of daffodils and bluebells will add interest and encourage more people to visit the wood. There is space to add more trees.

Phillip Ward

Read also:  The Jubilee Wood - Tree Planting for the Platinum Jubilee

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