Frodsham Woods, Cheshire had a real buzz during our visit as 80 volunteers got to work planting over 2,000 new trees. They're among the last to go into the ground for this exciting project, which is transforming a former golf course into a haven for nature and a wild place for local people to enjoy. 

Site manager Neil puts me through my paces as we visit the neighbouring ancient woodland that the new trees will help protect, and admire hilltop views across the Mersey to Liverpool and North Wales. We also chat to Tim, supervisor of this army of tree planters, about how the new wood will develop. It’s one of the most exciting tree projects in Cheshire in a long time, he says.

Comms guru Paul tells us more about the Trust's #plantmoretrees climate campaign. All the new trees planted here will help fight the effects of climate change, and count towards the 50 million trees they want to plant across the UK by 2030. That’s an enormous target, but an achievable one if we all do our bit.

It's a jam-packed episode as we also:

  • meet Esther, lead designer and one of the brains behind the planting scheme
  • discover the vision for Frodsham Woods and what today’s planting will look like in the future
  • learn how careful tree choices will help struggling wildlife populations
  • hear volunteers on what the day means to them.

It’s hardly surprising that local people have been so positive about the new lease of life for this space. Seeing it at this early stage is fantastic and I’ll definitely be back in future to see how it’s growing.

Listen now on iTunesLibsyn or Soundcloud.

You are listening to Woodland Walks, a podcast for the Woodland Trust presented by Adam Shaw. We protect and plant trees for people to enjoy, to fight climate change and to help wildlife thrive.

Adam: Well, today's podcast is a bit of an unusual one because I'm off to an abandoned golf course in Cheshire, overlooking Liverpool. Not far away, in fact. And the vision is to create this once golf course into a thriving mosaic of habitats, including lush broadleaved woodland, grassland meadows and wooded glades dotted with wildflowers. Throughout the site, they're creating a network of grassy paths so people can walk through them and get far-reaching views of the Welsh borders, the western Pennines and the Bowland Fells, along with, of course, Liverpool and the Mersey Estuary. And very excitingly, the man actually who's running all the tree planting there is also in a band, and it's his music and his band's music you can hear in the background. More about that a little later. It's called Frodsham Woods, and it's near the Frodsham train station. Guess where? In Frodsham. Well, today we are starting, I'm starting sitting down with Neil Oxley, who's the site manager here. Hi Neil.

Neil: Good morning, Adam.

Adam: Good morning. So, just explain where we are because we are, well, I'm not gonna take away your thunder. Explain. It's an unusual location.

Neil: So, we’re sat on a bench overlooking the River Mersey and Liverpool. We're on the old golf course that was closed about three years ago.

Adam: Yeah, well that's what I think is unusual – sitting on a golf course. I gotta take, it doesn't look like a golf course. They, the greenkeeper would have had a heart attack seeing the state of this place. But what's amazing is, well, I'm looking over a forest of planted trees. I mean, just within 10 yards, probably a couple of hundred of them, just been planted. So, this has got to be unusual. Take buying a golf course, turning it into a forest?

Neil: It is, yeah. I think it's probably the first golf course that the Woodland Trust has taken on and it's just a great opportunity, though, that when it became available, it's adjoining some of our existing woodlands, including ancient woodland. And it's given us an opportunity to plant lots of trees and work with local people and engage the community in doing something good for the climate.

Adam: And we're sitting down, looking over what might be, I don't know. Is that a bunker? Do you think that’s a bunker?

Neil: It is, yep. So, there there's probably about 40 bunkers on the golf course and we've kept them all, so some of those old features are still here.

Adam: And I saw one, some gorse growing, just naturally growing in the bunker there.

Neil: There is. Just in the two or three years since it stopped being maintained. There's gorse, there's silver birch, there's all sorts of trees and plants that are now appearing.

Adam: I love the gorse. It's bright. It comes out early. Bright yellow. Real splash of colour in early spring. It's really.

Neil: It is, yeah, it's lovely and colourful.

Adam: And we're looking over a range of wind turbines. And is that the Mersey ahead?

Neil: That is, that's the River Mersey.

Adam: Although there’s not much river, it looks, it looks like it’s out. It's mainly mud.

Neil: It’s probably low tide at the moment. Yeah, and Liverpool just beyond the other side.

Adam: Very nice. So, you're going to be my main guide today. We've got lots of people to meet, I know. Alright. Brilliant. So, explain to me the plan for the day.

Neil: So, we're gonna have a walk round and look at some of the tree planting that we've already done here. We've got some groups of corporate volunteers and Woodland Trust staff here today also who are planting trees. So, we'll go and see them later on. But I thought maybe to start off with we could go and visit some of the ancient woodland that borders the site and show you sort of why it's important that we're doing what we're doing today.

Adam: Brilliant. I'm of an age where sitting down is quite nice, but that's not going to get, that's not gonna get nothing made, is it? It's alright. We better get up and you lead on.

Neil: OK, let's go. This lady, by the way, coming with the pug. She's up here all the time. She's really lovely, friendly, always talks to me and Paul. And we've already said hello to her, but he...

Adam: Oh, this dog wants a lot of attention.

Neil: He loves that. He loves that, yeah.

Adam: We'll let the rest of the team pet the dog. You know, you've paused here for a special reason. Why?

Neil: Yeah. So, this area, we're on the edge of the ancient woodland now and the part of the site in front of us is going to be left for what's called natural regeneration to develop. So, that will be where trees can self-seed and set and grow naturally. So, we're not actually planting any trees in this area in front of us. And you can see there's some silver birch trees there that probably self-seeded five or 10 years ago on the edge of the golf course. And they're growing quite well already.

Adam: So, and what's the advantage of that? There's a big debate about rewilding and all of that. So, why has that become an important issue?

Neil: It is, I mean to different people it can mean slightly different things as well. But basically it's leaving the land to develop and rewild itself, you know, for nature to colonise it. It's a slower process.

Adam: So, because if you're planting them yourself, you're planting all the trees at the same time. They're all the same age, so they get wiped out. Everything gets wiped out.

Neil: Potentially yes. You could lose a lot more.

Adam: Actually, I'm surprised those are natural regeneration because they've, it's very regimented. Those silver birch, they've all come up in exactly the same space, very close together. It looks like there's been some thought behind that.

Neil: It does. It does and again nature can do things very similar to how people plant trees. You know, you often can end up with them very densely packed, more densely packed than we're planting them, actually.

Adam: Yeah, OK. Well, we're still surrounded by these young, young trees. So, you lead on. Where are we heading off to?

Neil: So, we're just walking into, towards the ancient woodland area. So, this this is called Woodhouse Hill and it's mostly oak and some silver birch, some holly growing in here, plus a few other species as well.

Adam: And wonderfully of you, you've taken me to the muddiest bit of land there is. Are we going through this?

Neil: This, well, we can do. It's unfortunately because of the winter we've had, some of the paths are very wet and muddy around here now.

Adam: So, I have my walking boots on. You squelch ahead and I’ll squelch behind you.

Neil: OK. We'll carry on then.

Adam: So, we're heading up, give us a better view of the Mersey, a better view of Liverpool.

Neil: That's right. Just around the corner, there's a really good viewpoint where the view will open up and a sunny day like today get quite good views.

Adam: And is it used by the locals a lot? I mean, it's relatively new then. I mean, presumably a lot of locals don't know about it.

Neil: Well, I mean since, the golf course was closed down during the pandemic, and at the time the owner allowed the public to come and walk on the site. So, suddenly from people being not allowed to use it unless they were playing golf, local people were allowed to come and walk the dogs or just walk themselves around with the family. So, people did get to know the site and start using it, but it also borders some existing woodlands with footpaths, which is where we are now. So, these existing woodlands were already well-used.

Adam: Right. And what's the reaction of the locals been to the development here?

Neil: Very positive. Yeah. I mean obviously there's always a fear when a piece of land is up for sale that it might go for some sort of development, housing or be sold to a private landowner who fences it off and stops people using it. So, people have been, yeah, really positive, really supportive. The consultation that we did before we started anything was all very much in favour of creating woodland and allowing public access.

Adam: I think we're coming up to a viewpoint here where there's a bench.

Neil: There is, we should have another sit down.

Adam: And it's very steep here. You wouldn't want to be falling off that, but this is a beautiful view.

Neil: Yeah. The weather today is just great for the view.

Adam: We've been blessed. Look at this. And then you look across a sort of flat valley floor with some wind turbines, which some don’t like but I always think they're really majestic. And beyond the wind turbines, the Mersey, where the tide is out. And beyond that, that's Liverpool. And is that Liverpool Cathedral? The grey building in the sort of middle there.

Neil: That's the main Anglican cathedral, and then the Catholic cathedral is just off to the right and beyond in the far distance is North Wales, so that low line of hills you can see is just within North Wales.

Adam: Oh, that's, those hills over there, beyond the chimneys, that's Wales.

Neil: Beyond the chimneys, yeah.

Adam: And some other lovely gorse and, whoops don't fall over, I thought it was going to be me that would be falling over, not the site manager.

Neil: Mind the rock.

Adam: Ice and sea. So, we've come to the sign. ‘The view from Woodhouse Hill holds clues to the distant past, the Mersey Basin and Cheshire’s sandstone hills were both shaped by advancing ice sheets during the last Ice Age.’ Do you know what? I wanted to say that because I remember from O-level geography, I think a flat-bottomed valley is a glacier-made valley. But I was, I didn't want to appear idiotic, so I didn't say that and I should have had the courage of my convictions. So, this is an ice-formed landscape.

Neil: It is. It is. I understand that the ice sheets came down to this part of the north of England back in the Ice Age. And there's some interesting features that are found here called glacial erratics.

Adam: Right.

Neil: Which is rocks from other parts of the north of England and Scotland that were brought down on the ice sheets. And then when the ice sheets melted, those rocks were left behind. But they're from a different geological area.

Adam: Right. Amazing.

Neil: So, around here it's sandstone. The erratics are all kind of volcanic rocks.

Adam: Brought down from the north, from Scotland.

Neil: Lake District and Scotland. That's right.

Adam: Beautiful. We were with a few other people.

Neil: I think they couldn't be bothered to come through the mud, could they? Yeah.

Adam: We seem to have lost them. OK, alright. Well, maybe we'll have to, we've lost our team, our support team.

Neil: We'll head back, but yeah, no, this was the view I thought we'd come to. Yeah, because it is a nice view.

Adam: Well, I'll tell you what. Let me take a photo of you, for the Woodland Trust social media.

Neil: Thought you were gonna say falling over the rock again. No, no, I'll try not to.

Adam: Yeah, let's not do that. Yeah, so to explain, you're running me across the field for some...

Neil: Walking fast.

Adam: Well, for you walking fast. I've got short legs. Why?

Neil: Well, we've walked over now to where we've got the people who are helping plant trees today with us. So, we've got a mix of corporate volunteers, Woodland Trust staff and some of our volunteers here to help us and we're gonna go over and meet Tim Kerwin, who's in charge of the tree planting and supervising the tree planting with us today.

Adam: Oh right, so these are, this is his army of tree planters.

Neil: It is, yes. Tim keeps things in check and makes sure they're doing the right thing.

Adam: OK. I mean, let's just look, there’s scores of people I’ve no idea of who Tim is.

Neil: Tim? Tim, can we get your attention for a few minutes?

Tim: Yes.

Adam: Hi, nice to see you, Tim.

Tim: I’ve seen you on telly.

Adam: Have you?

Adam: Well, Tim, as well as being in charge of everyone planting the trees today is also the sax player in a band. And of course we have to talk about that first and he very kindly gave me one of his original tracks, which is what you can hear right now. A first for the podcast.

*song plays*

Tim: You know, you know what? We probably do about eight gigs a year, right? But we're trying to find venues where people like jazz. We don't want to, you know, we don't want to do Oasis. That's not what we're about. There's plenty of bands like that. We play music for ourselves, and if people turn up and appreciate it, those are the people we want. I’ll play for one person.

Adam: You know, I was in a wood a few years ago and, can’t remember where it was, and we just came across a violinist, just playing to herself. And it was just like can I record it? And it’s like, just playing amongst the trees, and I thought it was really lovely.

Tim: You know what? I would, I would do the same. I mean, the places I like to play, like churches are fantastic because of the acoustics.

Adam: So, you might play that under this chat and what's the name of the band?

Tim: The Kraken.

Adam: The Kraken?

Tim: Yeah.

Adam: OK. Alright, The Kraken *laughs* So, all of which is a bit of a divergence.

Tim: I know, sorry *laughs*

Adam: So, I'm told you're in charge of this army of tree planters you can see over here. Three men having their sandwich break there. So, you've been working them hard.

Tim: We have been working them hard, indeed.

Adam: So, just explain to me a little bit about what's going on here.

Tim: So, today we can almost see the finishing line for our 30,000 trees. So, this morning we've actually planted just shy of 2,000 trees with the group that we've had, of which there's about 80 people.

Adam: That's a lot of trees. People always talk about how long does it take to plant a tree? It's not that big a thing is it?

Tim: No, but what we're keen about is it's not about necessarily speed, it's about accuracy. We want quality. So, what we're asking people to do is plant each tree really well. So, today I have to say the standard of planting has been amazing. From the first to the last, I haven't found one that I'm not happy with.

Adam: So, explain to me, and we're standing by a tree that's just been planted. It looks like they've scraped a bit of the grass away. So, explain to me, how should you plant a tree and what goes wrong?

Tim: OK, so what we've done here, we took the grass off before the guys came, so that's called scriefing. So, the purpose of that is the tree needs water. And this grass also needs water. So, we take that grass away, and the competition's gone away for the tree. So, it won't be forever, because within two years, that grass will have grown around that tree. But those first two years are quite critical. So, if we can get the new roots from, so those trees and little plugs, new roots which are going to come out in the next couple of weeks because the soil's warming up. I mean, the air's warming up, but the soil’s warming up. Those will send out shoots. They're already starting to come in to leaf, which is why the urgency to get these trees in now. They will take in the water around them and then keep on spreading with that root system. Enough root system will go out there and it will then not be competing with the grass because in fact the tree will be competing with the grass and actually taking over. So, eventually that grass will probably die because it will be shaded out in the future.

Adam: And talking about shade, I'm surprised how closely planted these are, about five foot apart or thereabouts. If this was a forest in 20 years’, 30 years’ time, it's exceptionally dense. Or are you expecting a lot of them to fail?

Tim: So, imagine you've got an oak tree and that throws down 40,000 acorns in usually every four years. So, it doubles its weight above ground.

Adam: Sorry, 40,000?

Tim: 40,000. A mature oak, yeah.

Adam: It’s worth pausing on that *laughs* A mature oak drops 40,000 acorns a year?

Tim: Every four years, roughly.

Adam: Because it doesn't do it every year, do they?

Tim: No. So, it has what they call a mast year, which is the year when everything's come together. It's usually based on the previous weather, weather conditions. So, that doubles the weight of the tree above ground, that throws all those acorns. Now you imagine they're gonna be a couple of centimetres apart on the ground. They're not all going to make it. What they're hoping is that something will take those away. So, a jay or a squirrel, they'll move those acorns away. Not all of them will get eaten. In fact, jays let the acorn germinate, and then they eat the remains. So, they wait to see where the oak tree comes up and then they come back and eat the remains of the cotyledon. So, you imagine if all those were going to germinate, there'd be a mass rush, and what they're waiting for is for the parent plant to die. And if that falls over, then they can all shoot up, but they're not all going to survive. So maybe only one, maybe two will survive out of those 40,000 if they're close to the tree. Now, what we're doing here is, imagine there’s the parent plant, the parent plant's not here. We've already spaced these out by this distance already. So, we've given them a better chance. So, they can now flourish. In time, so within sort of 10 to 12 years, we're going to start to be sending this out. So, you won't see this line. There are other parts on this site, 23 years old, and we've done a lot of filling through that. You wouldn't know it's been planted by, in a plantation.

Adam: So, what would you, what's the failure rate? What's a good failure rate to stay with?

Tim: It can really, really vary. I have to say that the soil here is tremendous. It's very rich. I'd be very surprised if we have a high failure rate. It could be 95% take.

Adam: So, that's really interesting. And what are you planting then? I've seen some oak. I've seen some silver birch. What are you planting?

Tim: So, Cheshire is all about oak and birch. So, 25% of these trees, so 7,500 are oak. And then 10% are silver birch. So that's 3,000. And then there's another 18 species that are all native to the UK that we're planting in here. So, things like rowan, holly, Scots pine and then we've got hazel, some large areas of hazel on this site that we've put in and then we've got hawthorn, blackthorn, couple of types of cherry, and then some interesting ones as well. So, we're putting some elm in and, specifically for a butterfly. So, there's a butterfly called white letter hairstreak. And the caterpillar feeds on the leaves of that tree. So, we've got those in Cheshire, but we're trying to expand it. And we've been working with the Butterfly Conservation group to get it right. So, they've given us some advice.

Adam: I thought elm was a real problem with the Dutch elm disease?

Tim: It still is. It still is.

Adam: There was some talk that maybe some had found some natural resistance to Dutch elm disease.

Tim: There are some resistant elm. And so, the plantings that we've done on here are what's classed as wych elm. It will still get Dutch elm disease, but it can last up to 16 years. And then there's always the opportunity to replant so we can get elm established. Then we can carry on spreading that through the site, so it's a starting point for that species we have. So again, we're trying to increase the biodiversity of the site by having specific trees for specific species. So, it's exciting. I mean, a lot's been lost and it won't become a beautiful wildflower meadow, although we are going to be doing some wildflower planting. We've already bought the seed. And in the next couple of weeks as it gets a little bit drier and a little bit warm, we're going to be, we're going to be sowing that in and that will come through the spring and summer. So, we've got lots to happen here as well.

Adam: Oh brilliant. Well, it's so nice to see it at an early stage. I’ll come back in a couple of years.

Tim: It’s probably one of the most exciting projects, tree wise, in Cheshire in a long time, because I've been doing this for a long, long time and these opportunities don't come up. So, for this to happen. And for the size of it as well. I mean, you're talking about a huge area of woodland now, over 180 acres. So, the second biggest area of woodland in Cheshire, so it's amazing. It truly is amazing.

Adam: Well, I'm walking away. In fact, all tree planting has stopped for lunch. What is the time? Yeah, it's 12:45. So, everyone has stopped for sandwiches and teas, and they're spreading branches of some trees. And while they're doing that, two people are still working. That's me. And Paul? Hi.

Paul: Hi.

Adam: So, just explain to me what you do, Paul?

Paul: I work as the comms and engagement manager for the north of England, so this is one of the best tree planting games we have had in a long time.

Adam: And the people we've got here today, they’re just locals? They from any particular groups?

Paul: No, the Woodland Trust staff as part of our climate campaign now get a day to come out and we've got various corporate volunteering groups out also planters. We've got about 80 people out planting today.

Adam: Well, that's amazing and we've just paused by this gorse bush. I'm rather partial to the gorse, so we’ll take some shelter there. So, you talked about that this is part of a bigger campaign. What is that campaign?

Paul: It’s our climate campaign. And very simple hashtag plant more trees. So, trees are one, probably one of the best things we've got in the battle against climate change to help. And they have the added benefit that also they're good for biodiversity as well. So, twin track approach if you plant a tree. Obviously they're not the solution to everything, but we're hoping, as the Woodland Trust just to get more people planting trees.

Adam: What is the target then? The sort of tree planting target you have?

Paul: Well we have a target to get 50 million trees planted by 2030. Across all of the UK, so quite, quite a number.

Adam: 50 million trees by 2030, so six years?

Paul: Yeah, yeah. And we've, I think we've planted 6 million trees, 2023, yeah.

Adam: Why is everyone taking a break? They’ve got millions to get in. That's quite an ambitious thing to get done, isn't it?

Paul: Yeah. And we need, we need to plant billions of trees longer term. So, it's really important we get everyone planting trees, but it's all that message as well, right tree in the right place, and get trees planted where they’re needed.

Adam: And this is an unusual project, not least cause it's on an old golf course, which I've never heard of before. Has it attracted much interest? Is there a lot of engagement from the media and the public?

Paul: Yeah, this site has had a remarkable amount of attention from the press. It started with local radio, then regional TV and then we've had things like Sky News Climate Show out here and then even international press coverage looking at rewilding of golf courses. CNN covered it alongside international golf courses and here in the UK, Frodsham. So, it's been amazing how it's captured everyone's imagination and it's been such a really positive good news story. It's a site that's a key site within the Northern Forest. So, the Northern Forest is another project that I’m involved with in the north of England, but.

Adam: Did you say a little project? *laughs*

Paul: Another, another project.

Adam: Oh sorry. I was gonna say, a massive project.

Paul: That’s a massive project, which is again stretching, looking to plant 50 million trees from Liverpool to Hull and we're working with the Community Forests in each area, in this case the Mersey Forest and again just promoting grants and support to landowners and communities to get more, more trees planted and to help acquire land for tree planting and give the grants for tree planting.

Adam: It must give you a warm feeling that your communications are actually being so well received that there is, it's not just you pushing out a message, that people want to hear this message.

Paul: Yeah, it's really, really good to not have a negative message. Generally it's a really, really positive message that people wanted to hear because it's great for the community. They're getting some amazing green space with stunning views of the Mersey on the doorstep. It's interesting story about how we're changing from a golf course to a woodland site. We've got the ancient woodland, got natural regeneration. And just the fact that everyone's smiling, everyone's really happy and just so pleased that they're playing their small part in helping us create this new woodland site. Just great to be part of that, that positive good news story.

Adam: Well, I'm going over to a group of people who have been busy planting all day but are now on their lunch break, just to bother them and ask them how their day has been and why they got involved in this.

Adam: OK, well, you can, first of all, you can just shout out so, well we've, you all are hard at work I hear, but I've seen very little evidence of it cause everyone’s sat down for lunch now. Have you all had a good day?

Everyone: Yes.

Adam: That would have been awful had they said no. Anyway, they all had a good day. So, I mean, it's lovely that you're out. You're all out here doing, I mean, very serious work. You've all got smiles on your face and everything. But this is important. I wonder why anyone's getting involved, what it means to you. Anyone got a view or get a microphone to you?

Adam: So, what's your name?

Volunteer 1: Rodon.

Adam: Rodon. So, why are you here?

Rodon: Well, nature, wildlife, planting, and I know the area quite well, so it's nice to see being developed in a sustainable way and being something for nature. It's a great place to come and visit, not far from the sandstone trail. I visit lots of Woodland Trust sites. I live in Warrington so it's sort of down the road, and it's, as I say, with the old wood over there that's quite an adventurous path. It's got lots of like sandstone sort of steps and little caves, and it's on the side of a cliff. So, this has kind of extended that over here as well.

Adam: It would be a lovely thing to return to in a few years.

Rodon: Well, it's a nice place now to be honest.

Adam: Brilliant.

Volunteer 2: My name is David Mays. I'm also from the from the town of Warrington as well. I'm an MSC and BSc student from local Hope University. I've finished both of them now, thankfully. I'm trying to get a job in the ecological management sector and I feel doing this working with people like Tim and Neil will help me massively get a, you know, it looks good on my CV. Most importantly, I really enjoy being out here and getting to know how the areas of ecological development, particularly in the woodland industry, is developing over the past few years and what are the plans for the future and what they hope to achieve in the long term and short term.

Adam: That's very good. So, it's also very innovative of you putting out your CV live on air there. Good. Hopefully someone needing a job, with a job to offer will contact us. Good luck with that. So, oh yeah, we've come under another lovely tree. I mean it looks set. I was just saying to Kerry, it's so beautiful here. It looks like we've set this shot up. Really, you know? But here you are with your spades behind you taking a break from the trunk. So, first of all, have you, has it been a good day?

Volunteer 3: Yeah. Yeah, it has been. It’s been dry.

Adam: It's been dry. OK. Alright. Well, let's get, so, the best thing about today is that it was dry.

Volunteer 3: It's one of the positive points. Definitely. Yeah, after the trees.

Adam: Yeah, with experience. So, why did you want to come out? What made you want to be part of this?

Volunteer 3: Well, I think it's because we are having a bit of a push with the climate change agenda at the moment, so it's, working for the Woodland Trust it's just a nice opportunity to get away from the sort of the day job for me and get out into the field and actually do something practical and help towards that.

Adam: Yeah. Did, I mean, has it been very physical for you today, has it?

Volunteer 3: It's not been too bad, actually. It's been fine. Yeah. No, it's been OK. Ask me tomorrow, but yeah *laughs*

Adam: Have you done this sort of stuff before?

Volunteer 3: No, this is my first, this is my first planting day with the Trust.

Adam: Yeah, and your last?

Volunteer 3: No, no, I'll definitely no, it hasn't put me off. We'll definitely, definitely be back out again when I get the opportunity. It's been great.

Adam: So, go on. Tell me what's all been like for you today?

Volunteer 4: It’s been really good. Yeah. I just can't believe we've covered so much ground in so little time, really. Seems we've only been here a few hours and because it's, I've been quite remote working from home, so it's quite nice kind of seeing some people I've met on screen, so it's nice to now, yeah, meet people in the real world and yeah, give back. I've never, I've not done anything like this before.

Adam: So yeah, so is this your first time planting trees?

Volunteer 5: It's not my first time planting trees, but it's my first time planting with the Trust. I was planting trees in my garden on the weekend, so I’ve done my back in. So, I've not quite got the planting rate of everyone else today I don't think, but you know, as the other guys were saying, we work office jobs really rather than on the front line of the Trust. So, it is good to get our hands dirty and to get involved with what we're supposed to be all about and contribute to our climate change campaign. So, hashtag plant more trees.

Adam: Yeah. There we are, on message as well.

Volunteer 5: I work in the brand team *laughs*

Adam: There we are. There we are. Thank you. That's excellent.

Adam: Now, really I should have started with this because we're nearing the end of my morning in the forest. But I've come to meet Esther, who's really one of the big brains behind the planting scheme. I know a bit modest about that, but tell me a little bit about what your involvement has been with this project.

Esther: I've been a lead designer on this project, so I've been putting together the planting plans and lots of maps and really working with Neil, he's the site manager, to make sure that we make this the best scheme that we can make it. We've included coppice coupes for biodiversity and.

Adam: Right, what's a coppice coupe?

Esther: A coppice coupe is just an area of where you're planning to coppice. So, cut a tree down to its very base and then it grows back up as shoots. So, it only works with a few species and the species that we've chosen is hazel. So, those areas are 100% hazel. And it's great for biodiversity because you sort of go in a rotational like a 10-year cycle or something like that and you cut back say 10% of your trees in that year and then you get a lot of light to the ground and then you get hopefully a lot of floristic diversity coming through.

Adam: And so, is that a job that, it sounds terrible the way I'm saying it – is that a job? Is it a job that you sit down and you go, you have a piece of paper or computer and you go, this is where we're, how we're gonna design the forest. We're gonna put ash over there. We're gonna put oak over there. Is that what you do?

Esther: Yeah. Yeah. So, we use something called GIS. So, geographical information systems which basically let you draw shapes on a map and then you can colour code it and basically make a really coherent design of something to tell people, you know, what you're trying to achieve. What's gonna go where.

Adam: And it's not every, it's not like building an extension to a house where you go well, there's probably thousands and going on all the time. There can't be that many forests being planted each day, so this must be a significant thing in your career I would have thought.

Esther: Oh yeah, this is my first woodland creation scheme that I've seen from pretty much the start to the finish, so I've been working on it for 18 months and then an awful lot of hours gone into it. It's been really enjoyable and it's just a wonderful, wonderful to see it coming together. And yeah, and we're nearly finished now, so.

Adam: And I know people often think, oh well, I'll come back in 100 years’ time and you know, my great grandchildren might see these trees. But actually, within your career, you will see a forest here won't you.

Esther: Yeah. So, I think within 10 years it will look like a woodland. It's had, this site has a history of agriculture, so it should in theory have a lot of nutrients in the soil. So, the trees should grow really well. So yeah, I would say within 10 to 15 years, it should look like fully fledged woodland, if not a bit young, but yeah.

Adam: And are you optimistic about really the change that you and your colleagues can make? Cause there's a lot of pessimism around. What's your view?

Esther: I think it's a really exciting time to be working in the environment sector and there's a lot of enthusiasm for making big changes in our lives and big changes in our landscape. I think there's a lot of hope to be had. And yeah, just seeing like the amount of enthusiasm on a planting day like this really fills me with a great deal of hope, yeah.

Adam: Yeah. Have you planted any trees yourself?

Esther: I have, yeah.

Adam: How many of these have been yours, you reckon?

Esther: We have 15, probably not that many *laughs*

Adam: Oh, that's not bad. I thought you were gonna be like The Queen. I planted one. There was a round of applause and I went home *laughs*

Esther: No, I put a lot of guards on, but yeah, not planting that many trees myself.

Adam: Fantastic. Well, it's been a great day for me. Our half day out here and I'll definitely return. It's amazing, amazing, positive place.

Esther: Wonderful, yeah.

Adam: And the sun has shone on us. Metaphorical smile from the sun. Brilliant. Thank you very much.

Esther: Thank you so much.

*song plays*

Adam: Well, if you want to find a wood near you, you can do so by going to The Woodland Trust website which is Until next time, happy wandering.

Thank you for listening to the Woodland Trust Woodland Walks with Adam Shaw. Join us next month, when Adam will be taking another walk in the company of Woodland Trust staff, partners and volunteers. Don't forget to subscribe to the series on iTunes or wherever you're listening to us and do give us a review and a rating. And why not send us a recording of your favourite woodland walk to be included in a future podcast? Keep it to a maximum of five minutes and please tell us what makes your woodland walk special. Or send us an e-mail with details of your favourite walk and what makes it special to you. Send any audio files to We look forward to hearing from you.

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  • England’s largest new native wood at Heartwood
  • Loch Arkaig, an ancient Scotland pine forest
  • how trees are making a difference on a Nottinghamshire farm
  • the urban woods and trees of Leeds
  • Joyden’s Wood, a tranquil ancient wood close to London
  • the Trust’s largest site in England – Smithills Estate
  • the ambitious Northern Forest planting project 
  • the new young people’s forest at Mead
  • a tour of our president Clive Anderson's garden
  • top tips for autumn tree ID
  • the rainforest of Devon's Bovey Valley Woods
  • how to read clues in nature with natural navigator Tristan Gooley
  • coppicing for people and wildlife at Priory Grove, Monmouth
  • special tree-themed interviews with celebrities including Dan Snow, Alastair Campbell, Adrian Chiles, Elaine Paige and Kate Humble.

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