Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The face that launched 500 trees

I am looking back at a life's work. Thankfully the life in question isn't mine, though. It is the life of the Sustainability Subcommittee, now sadly demised.

It all started two years ago, when our local Green Party's chief Organiser of All Things, in the time-honoured fashion, organised it from her place on the Parish Council. I was an enthusiastic recruit, and became secretary (and ideas lab). Collectively we organised a Parish-wide cloth bag campaign, the installation of several cycle-racks, the introduction of Green Burials in the Cemetery (I've often wondered, but never dared ask, what was in the rest of their "Business Development Plan"!), a re-think of the Parish "Design Statement" so that it included proper environmental issues as well as just appearences, and the signing-up of the Parish Council to that pledge to drop energy use by 10%.

But best of all, we brought out the inner tree-hugger in our local City Councillor. The Parish signed up to "In Bloom". It sounds all prissy and ornamental, but actually the RHS have kind of eco-pimped it on the quiet over the past few years. Battle lines are no longer drawn simply on whose patch looks the prettiest, but also on how many (different types of) people are joining in, and how "sustainable" (including things like collecting rainwater, composting and growing food) the area is becoming.

The upshot of all this machiavellian shenanigans was that between them the Orchard and the Parish were given, by the RHS, no fewer than 525 native fruit and nut trees to plant. Finding places in which to do this, though, isn't as easy as you might think. Private landowners are never there to ask, and even if they were, they'd probably have other plans. Some of the common land is being deliberately kept tree-free, for the sake of beetles who prefer meadows. Built-up roadsides have infrastructure underneath. One of the flood plains is set aside for housing. And so on.

We rapidly came to realise that edges were good, and that the best of these lay between the old battlefield (now a playing-field) and the main road. A date was set: perhaps a little late in the season, but then the season this year has been particularly cold. The RHS brief asked us to make an event of it, so we did: the mayor came along in her pink dress and hat to plant the first tree for newspaper coverage, and someone had thoughtfully provided Cava, fruit-juice and cake for all of us. It was, in short, a perfect day.

But don't trees take up space, rather than creating it? Well, that depends on who you are. Obviously if you're playing football on the playing-field, and someone's carelessly gone and planted trees in the middle of it, then they take up your space. But if you're some item of wildlife, or someone who likes climbing trees, then they provide special spaces just for you.

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