Diary of a tree planter

When we think about the challenges climate change poses to the UK, flooding is understandably at the top of a lot of people’s minds. It’s certainly been a concern for the people of Wolverley, Worcestershire. The village sits between the River Stour and the Worcestershire canal and it’s had four once-in-a-lifetime floods in the past decade.

When the community came together to do something about it, we knew we wanted to help. Aware of the power of trees for tackling flooding and sucking carbon out of the atmosphere, we rallied 10:10ers from across the country and headed to the village for two days of tree-planting climate action. Here’s Emma's diary of the weekend.

Friday 25th January

It’s 6am on a Friday in January. I pack my wellies and rush out the door into the pouring rain. I immediately regret not wearing said wellies. I’m heading to 10:10 HQ in Camden Town, where I’ll meet two colleagues and we’ll set off together, heading north. Our destination is Wolverley, a village in Worcestershire.

On our journey up, we go through areas covered by a moderate layer of snow. I hope, for the sake of the trees, that this isn’t the case in Wolverley.

Upon arriving, we prepare for the tree planting session that will take place the following day. We examine the sites, check equipment and mark the ground where trees will be planted. As we finish, we go for a walk around the village. We walk down a winding road surrounded by sandstone that leads us to the home of a local family.

Over a cup of tea, the grandmother tells us she recently stumbled upon photos she took of a flood that hit their home a few years ago. She quietly says she finds the photos hard to look at, they aren’t good memories. I can see why, the scene is unnerving. Home should be a place you feel safe, not on edge.

Saturday 26th January

It’s Saturday, the rest of the 10:10 team are here and we’re heading down to the village hall to meet the volunteers - exciting! We arrive early, and early bird volunteers start to trickle in shortly after. By the time we leave to go to the first field we’ll be planting on today, we have about 50 volunteers in tow.

It was fantastic to see people coming together from across the country - from uni students to scouts to retired folk to families. Everyone grabbed a spade and mucked in.

With masses of enthusiasm they braved the chilly weather (and quite a few spots of rain!). Cups of tea from the outdoor wood-burning kettle kept spirits high, not to mention a lovely low carbon plant based lunch.

10:10’s director of innovation, Leo, happens to also be an ex-tree surgeon. He gathers everyone round and gives a demonstration of how we’ll be planting trees today. He is in his element. When he finishes, everyone disperses across the fields in a hurry to get those trees in the ground.

I chat to Jo, who heard about the project from a 10:10 email. She’s travelled down from Bristol wanting to take some positive, practical action against climate change. I also chat to a middle aged man who’s a Wolverley local.

He’s your traditional countryside Brit, and I am surprised when he tells me that he, along with his wife and daughters, went vegan last year, inspired by their son’s decision to make the diet change to reduce his personal carbon footprint.

Refreshing change

I finish the day chatting to volunteers - from near and far - underneath a marquee. The rain pours outside, but it doesn’t dampen spirits. One thing that really stands out to me is how powerful doing something physical is to them.

In our world of increasingly online actions, this is a refreshing change to those who feel frustrated and can use their hands for something other than typing at a keyboard. For those who’ve come with climate change in mind, it is therapeutic to see some change happening right in front of them.

For those wanting to protect their homes from flooding, this gives them a sense of control - the ability to influence a force that they’ve traditionally felt powerless against.

We head back to our rented barnhouse and whip up a hearty sweet potato curry for dinner, we’re exhausted but excited to do it all again tomorrow.

By the end of the weekend, with the help of 80 incredible volunteers, we had planted 200 trees and 2000 whips (that’s little trees) that’ll grow into about 500m of hedgerow. They will help protect the village from flooding and soak up CO2 for decades to come!

Photos: Chris Rhys Field