17 Dec 2021

Tree Planting II!

A fair few tree guards and stakes have appeared along the borders of the wood in areas which the society, with the very generous help of volunteers, have been clearing of non-native invasive species such as Cherry Laurel and Rhododendron. Some may ask what is going on here, and why are we planting trees in a wood?! Both are good questions. 

Whilst Rhododendron and Cherry Laurel may look nice in a garden, if permitted to escape into an ecosystem (such as Wealden ghyll woodland, in our case) nature cannot compete against these human-introduced plants which then quickly overwhelm native species, causing great harm to (and eventually destroying!) woodland if left unchecked.

On these borders we wish to replace the 'lost' foliage as quickly as possible, only with a far more appropriate choice of species. Having cleared these areas of non-native invasives, we must continue to consider our neighbours' privacy and limit how much their properties are 'over-looked' from the wood. And because a good screen of woodland-edge species not only allows privacy to be retained, but also eventually becomes stock (and dog) proof, shields the wood from the worst excesses of wind, and keeps the humid air within the wood, it is important that we re-populate the borders as quickly as possible.

To that end, the society is in the middle of planting 200 new saplings (60 are already in the ground at the time of writing!) and this is where the tree guards and stakes come in. In a wonderful display of generosity, The Conservation Volunteers donated two hundred bare-root seedlings, with canes and guards, to the Cross-in-Hand Amenities Society. Within the mix were species such as:

  • Field maple

  • Hazel

  • Hawthorn

  • Dogwood

  • Dog rose

  • Downy birch

  • Goat willow

  • Bird cherry

A private donor has also helped to return the wood back to a more natural state by offering us ten small-leaved Lime trees (Tillia cordata) which would have been widespread and extremely common in the south-east of England after the last ice-age, but more recently in history have been cleared to make way for sweet chestnut coppice and standard oaks.

The hawthorn, dog rose and dogwood are ‘woodland-edge’ species, and are perfect for screening along the borders. The remaining species will be planted randomly throughout the recently cleared areas. Thus, the future of Darch's Wood's biodiversity (and therefore resilience in the face of climate change) has therefore taken another very positive step forward.

One last valid question is 'why must we use plastic tree guards when plastic pollution is such a huge environmental issue?'. The brief answer is that we have, at least with current technology, no real choice. Darch’s Wood, and the countryside in general, is suffering from both an overabundance of deer and the effect of non-native grey squirrels, both of which decimate saplings via browsing and bark stripping. If left unchecked almost all of the saplings would be predated to the point where they never reach maturity, and so tree guards must be used and gathered in for re-use or disposal once the saplings mature.


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