By John Fleetwood, Chairman and Co-ordinator of the Broadland Tree Warden Network
I have been lucky enough to have been a Tree Warden for over thirty years now and have been very proud to have been Chairman and Co-ordinator of the Broadland Tree Warden Network since November 2018, when we took over running the Network from District Council. Being Broadland Network Co-ordinator is demanding but, overall, it is most rewarding.
During this last planting season our small Network (41 Tree Wardens covering 63 parishes) managed to plant 1164 trees and 180m hedging, in addition to a community orchard comprising 54 old Norfolk varieties of fruit trees, such as the Norfolk Royal, Sandringham and Harling Hero apples, Merchant cherry, Hacon’s Incomparable pear plus quince and the wonderful medlar. All were funded from our generous annual planting budget from Broadland District Council.
I have learned over the years that no two Networks are the same. We all work differently with each having its own emphasis. Here in Broadland, in addition to planting and aftercare, we work closely with Broadland District Council, monitoring TPOs and Section 211 Notifications for Works to Trees Within Conservation Areas. It is wonderful to know that when you recommend trees for protection your local authority responds so positively.
As Co-ordinator I am lucky enough to get involved with projects outside my parish, although I’m not sure that my wife would agree with that!
Two recent projects stand out. I became heavily involved in the planting of the community orchard I mentioned earlier. The planning and agreeing with the parish council, the owner of the countryside park in which we planted it, were a bit drawn out but eventually we got a good result and the planting of the trees plus a boundary hedge, involving just three of us, was most rewarding.
I joined the two Tree Wardens for the parish to help with the planting. Each tree was planted in a mulch as the soil, being ex-farmland, was devoid of nutrients. It was then surrounded in a 1m radius of clean woodchip. You can see from the photograph that it was an impressive creation, much appreciated by villagers. Personally, I’m very much looking forward to harvesting the medlars so that I can enjoy medlar jelly on toast for breakfast!
I have also joined one of our Tree Wardens in a monumental task, thinning a young woodland planted 18 years ago on neglected farmland. To date, we have given 1,500 man hours to the project and the response from the public has been so positive.
No preparation of the site was carried out prior to the original planting so the ground is still heavily rutted from tractors. Planting was predominantly goat willow Salix caprea and that has outgrown and supressed the other species planted. In general, the site wasn’t a welcoming place for anyone to enjoy, and what was intended to be an asset to the village resulted in being a bit of a no-go area except for brave dog walkers.
We set about removing much of the willow, thereby opening the woodland to more light and making space for planting of more preferred species. As you can imagine, we were immediately faced with a mountain of brash from our work but as we did not want anything to leave the site, we used the larger diameter felled logs to edge pathways throughout the woodland, then hired a chipper to produce woodchip for a safe, dry path surface.
We didn’t neglect the wildlife either and used the surplus brash to create several large habitat piles that soon became well-used. Unfortunately, as can be fairly common in community woodlands, some of the logs get removed by locals wanting to use them in their wood stoves. We hope to have put an end to this with some careful awareness raising around the importance of wood piles for wildlife, as the log removals have now stopped.
Another project I have been pleased to lead, in a parish where we did not have a Tree Warden, is the creation of a wildlife garden in my grandson’s primary school. We supplied logs, woodchip, shrubs and wildflower seed, “pruned” two neglected apple trees, planted a short beech hedge and … oh yes … put in a few hours hard labour. The pupils love it and the Grandmother of one of my grandson’s classmates has now become our Tree Warden for the parish. We plan to create a Junior Tree Warden Scheme at the school, as I did some years ago in my parish.
After 30-plus years I find Tree Wardening more rewarding than ever!