Planting trees to connect our community

“A culture is no better than its woods.” W.H. Aude

When the character of Tony (Ricky Gervais) speaks with Anne (Penelope Wilton) at the end of series 1 of the Netflix comedy Afterlife, he speaks about his change of heart from wanting to commit suicide to wanting to live “You can’t not care about the things you actually care about” he says deciding to “make my little corner of the world a slightly better place”. Anne replies “That’s all there is”, before quoting a saying – which is, in part, the core of this Trees Of Beeston article – :

“A society grows great when old [wo]men plant trees, the shade of which they know they will never sit in. Good people do good things for other people. That’s it” Anne offers by way of summary.

What sustains us all is not simply in serving ourselves now, but in passing on hope and knowledge that might make life better both in the here and now and into the future. Tree planting, growing seeds, both actual and metaphorical – an idea, a practice, a new habit – is an act of hope-giving, for the person practising it, and for the wider world, they interact with.

True to my new year Trees of Beeston commitment, I put on my gardening gloves and wellies and ventured beyond my own back yard out on a cold and damp January morning, to help WeDigNG9, Broxtowe Borough Council and the Beeston Civic Society complete planting up an area of the Hetley Pearson recreation ground which will, we hope, transform over time into a diverse wooded spinney area to be protected for wildlife and humans alike.

Recent storms Ciara and Dennis serve to remind us that our climate and habitat are under threat from increasing extreme weather, demanding a change in our habits to enact sustainable resilience in how we live our daily lives. Nurturing the trees we have, and planting more, serve as a long-term act of defence from the water-logging and flooding: Trees hold the soil, absorb surface water, their branches and leaf coverage provide canopy cover that absorbs; they breathe in the CO2 and breathe out the oxygen we need. They provide habitats for wildlife: food and shelter for over-wintering insects, birds and mammals. They enrich our lives.

It is a reminder that, as humans, we thrive when we connect with other lives. Whether those lives are human or non-human in the form of plants and animals, there is a marked improvement to peoples mental and physical well-being in getting outdoors and doing things for the greater good.

“Civicmindedness is something that has sustained generations.”

Civic means relating to the duties or activities people have to their local town or area. Civic-mindedness is something that has sustained generations and help shape and make the landscapes we have in Beeston, Broxtowe, and beyond. We are all part of an ecosystem, whether in Beeston or beyond, and our energies and activities go to make it. We all have agency and the capacity to make Beeston more sustainable, and in our own ways, contribute. Judy Sleath, stalwart of the Beeston Civic Society [beestoncivicsociety. org.uk] tells me as we plant tree saplings, that tree planting has long been something the Beeston Civic Society has been involved with since its inception in 1972. Over the recent decades, it has invested funds and worked alongside Broxtowe Borough Council and public organisations such as our local primary schools in ensuring trees are planted for the benefit of all in our town.

The day before I join in, Judy and Nick Worthi from Nottinghamshire County Council’s Greenwood forestry initiative to grow a community forest across Nottinghamshire [www.greenwoodforest.org.uk/images/ content/pdfs/greenwood_strategic_plan. pdf] were planting with school children from Beeston Rylands so these young Beestonians learn how to plant trees and, in turn, have a local educational field trip finding out about the locale and learning about the soil, the importance of worms and how nature connects to make habitable worlds for us as humans and animals to coexist.

The site is perfect. The tree saplings planted – a mixture of oaks (funded by the Beeston Civic Society), Hawthorns, Horse Chestnuts, Field Maples – will do well here, situated near the attenuation pond. The pond not only provides a home for insects, amphibians, and birds, but extends a green corridor from neighbouring Attenborough nature reserve to the surrounding gardens and parks of our beloved town, but also serves to absorb and collect any overflow from the Trent when the rains fall and the river floods. The trees act as natures sponges, provide the root systems to secure the soil, provide the plant cover needed to absorb the water and so protect the neighbouring low lying houses and flats.

This is not simply a cosmetic intervention, but an act of protection and anticipatory future-proofing for local residents as extreme weather conditions arise and to secure and protect future Beestonians, to gift them shade, and nature and natural spaces in which to take solace and find comfort. More than ever such spaces need to be made.

So it is encouraging that it appears our civic and local authority are on side with this idea to begin planting trees and securing the future of the arboreal landscape of our town.

If you are keen to add a tree to your own garden then Broxtowe Borough Council [www.facebook.com/broxtoweboroughcouncil] also have a tree planting scheme for residents. This is a great opportunity to assist in repopulating our borough with trees of all kinds, and for getting intergenerational family, friends and neighbours involved, especially if there are no street trees on your street. Last November the announcement went out on social media of the availability of 500 fruit trees, all of which got snapped up in minutes. I spoke with Hugh from Broxtowe Borough Council who was distributing the final much sought-after fruit tree saplings to Broxtownians near where the tree planting activities were taking place at the recreation ground. All the trees were collected and Hugh hoped that the scheme would return this November with possibly some ornamental trees available.

So If you are keen to grow your own tree, make sure to look up the scheme on the council’s Facebook page in the autumn where, it is hoped, ornamental and possibly more fruit trees will be available to apply for. In the meantime, you can always get involved with greening Beeston activities.

If trees seem too much, why not get yourself some seeds and plant small: whatever you think might grow well that you like (personally I am keen on my herbs so I can eat them as well as grow them!) There are seed swap events across Nottinghamshire over the coming weeks as seeds turn into seedlings and the nights get lighter, I would suggest getting in touch with Beeston EcoAction Team (BEAT) on social media [www.facebook.com/groups/2181563685474115] or Greening in Beeston [greeninginbeeston. weebly.com]

So happy growing, happy connecting and here’s to a Beeston and Broxtowe where sustainable living and tree protection and planting remains a focused civic tradition into the future!

DR JN

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