I want to plant trees. The evidence shows that trees have an important part to play in tackling climate change. Woods are very successful at taking in atmospheric carbon and storing it for centuries. The Woodland Trust reckons a young wood of mixed native trees can lock up over 400 tonnes of carbon per hectare, including living trees and roots, deadwood, surrounding soil and vegetation. In addition a wood provides a habitat for all sorts of plants, fungi and animals. One of the beauties of the spring in England is a wood full of bluebells.
There is no room in my small garden for more trees. However, the Town Council owns a nature reserve, which is mainly meadow land, crossed by a stream. The meadows are dotted with old oaks and bordered by hedges, while the stream is fringed by poplars. The hedges are full of sloe bushes, which provide habitat for the rare brown hairstreak butterflies to lay their eggs. When you look southward, you see the line of the South Downs.
As I am a member of the Council, I thought I might be able to persuade them to plant a few trees. I wouldn't want to cover the meadows with trees. Many people walk there with their dogs, or sit on one of the benches provided and admire the view. Besides, the meadows themselves are habitat for insects and small mammals and they are increasingly rich in wild flowers, thanks to sympathetic management.
The Council's decisions are taken by a series of committees. So the question arises how to influence the relevant committee. The Chairman is sympathetic, and when we hear an ecologist is going to visit the reserve, we ask her to consider whether there is potential for more tree planting. It takes a while for the report to arrive but when it does, it identifies a site for a community orchard near the water tower, along with gaps in the nearby hedgerow that could be filled. New shrubs could be planted along the southern boundary of the western slope. The committee is content to accept the ecologist's report. I don't know if I will get to plant any of the new trees, but the decision feels like a victory.