Dateline: Bear Mead in Dorset. 28 February 2004
It all went so well today. The snow has gone, the field is dry and there's no wind. Rachel Palmer arrived about 10am, and 10 volunteers arrived at 10.30am. The weather has been dry for 2 weeks, so they could park their cars next to the work, the grass field was hard.
The owners (John and Rosie Palmer) had all the equipment ready and in place: oak saplings in 10 litre pots, some bags of John Innes #3, planting points marked with bamboos, mulch mats and pegs. The gang brought their own spades, trowels and hammers. After a bit of socialising, everyone got down to work.
The hole-diggers worked like Trojans, sweat streaming down their honest brows. Nigel and Jim in particular dug well. We had to stop them, we were running out of trees! Nigel showed how it should be done, put as much of the grass roots and soil back around the tree rootball as possible.
Because this was a meadow, we had to use mulch mats and pegs to kill the competing grass around the tree. Here perhaps the gang were less successful, the nine pegs have to be hammered home with care so the mat isn't "rucked up" too much. Plastic pegs can break if not hit right. Ah well, nobody's perfect.
We had a coffee break. The owners forgot to provide a place for the ladies to powder their noses, but there are plenty of hedges around. Later a break for lunch, chatting to the gang I realise just how far some of the volunteers have come, half way across the county. Bless them!
Two walkers turn up to find out what's going on. "We saw all the cars, are you planting a vineyard?" When told oaks:"Ooh, how marvellous". Two more volunteers turn up later, but they stay longer. It starts to get colder, my muscles are aching, we wave as the cars drive off, I'm feeling hungry.
Back home, there's a message on the phone. "Sorry I couldn't make it today. Can I help you tomorrow morning instead?". What enthusiasm. I shall miss them all, its like having a six-hour family. And, yippee, we've got 80 holes dug, 80 trees planted, and most of the mats pegged in place. What I thought would take us until the end of March has been done before the end of February. Thanks a million to 10 strangers, Rachel Palmer, and the International Tree Foundation.
John and Rosie Palmer
Bear Mead, Dorset