In our latest issue of Broadleaf magazine, we chat to businesswoman and TV personality Deborah Meaden. She tells us of her first den in the woods, caring about climate change, life on a Somerset smallholding and a special wedding tree - and shares a green money-saving top tip.

"When I first started on Dragons’ Den, they nicknamed me Swampy. I’ve always cared about climate change: I wrote a thesis on it at business school 48 years ago. Back then I thought it would be way beyond my lifetime, but we’re seeing some ravaging stuff right now. And unless an idea has sustainable potential I won’t invest, because if a business isn’t tackling climate change, it’s already dying. Even hard-nosed types who only care about the bottom line need to step up, because consumers increasingly demand it. We have that power!

Aged seven, I lopped my mother’s forsythia and sold the flowers at our garden gate. It was my first business venture. Even then I quickly sensed it was all about location, so I moved my stall to a more prominent position on next-door’s drive. Trade picked up, until said neighbour marched me back to my mother, who roundly told me off. It was only for show – I could tell she was secretly proud.

As a child, I’d be out until last light. Mum was a single parent and we moved around, but if we didn’t have a garden we’d be scrumping crab apples and climbing trees. I remember always wanting to stretch that bit higher, grab the limb that seemed out of reach. For a while we lived in a council house with an extremely long garden, but we’d still squeeze through the fence and make dens in the woods beyond. To this day, being in nature makes me feel good – independent, part of something greater, free.

Our Somerset smallholding is only 26 acres, but chock full of life. There are treecreepers, long-tailed tits, woodpeckers, owls, buzzards, nightingales, linnets. Kingfishers patrol our pond, and an otter stops by now and then to decimate the fish. But when we turned up 16 years ago there was nothing, just oversprayed arable fields. We immediately put in 50 mature trees and 500 whips around them, forming coppices and hedgerows to connect up the land. Now there’s somewhere to perch, nest and hunt – it’s a complete transformation.

Nature knows best. We gave our trees a fighting chance by planting where they once grew: we found old maps dating to 1780. We put back the orchard too, complete with old English apple varieties. We’ve learned that trees tell you when they’re happy: birch and willow thrive in the wet ground here, but the Turkish hazel struggled. I thought: you’re in the wrong place!

A friend took a twist of willow from my wedding bouquet 29 years ago – and it took root. When we moved here, we brought cuttings. Now about 40 trees can be traced to that marital sprig: my clever husband’s even woven a lovely dome with room for ten people. And we put in an avenue of 20 whips to mark 25 years – our wedding anniversary walk. It leads to a little horse chestnut grown from a conker from another much-loved tree at our old place. There are lots of memories in our garden.

Here’s a green money-saving tip: ditch the weedkiller. People are always trying to impose rules on nature, but take those barriers away, have a little patience, and it does wonders. Things become less pristine, yes, but soon hordes of birds will be pecking at the slugs and snails, which in turn eat up loads of aphids. It all regulates itself – so nowadays I just sit back and watch nature do my work."

Broadleaf is our quarterly magazine exclusive to Trust members. Its inspirational writing and stunning photography tell the inside story of how we, our members, volunteers and partners stand up for trees. To receive your regular copy and exciting welcome gift, become a member now.

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