Braintree District Council (BDC) has been considering how to increase the number of trees in its area and in particular what scope there is to create new woodland. One area identified, with the help of the Tree Group, as a possible site for a belt of trees is the field between Holly Walk and the railway on the northern edge of Witham. Besides the benefits which trees already provide, this site on the side of the field nearest the railway was seen to have an advantage for local residents in affording some sound proofing to the noise of rail traffic. Planting in this area would leave the great majority of this extensive field for recreation.
BDC decided to test out the site by planting in 2 trial areas this year and the Tree Group offered its assistance. BDC’s contractors Bee Brook had fenced off the areas, broken the surface and added tree bark by way of soil improvement. Last Tuesday (16 March) we planted some 250 whips in the first trial area and, having received further supplies, we planted a similar number in the second area on Saturday (20 March). There are already trees on the slope down to the railway and the 2 trial areas are placed where this cover is thinnest.
The traditional whip planting method would have spaced the whips so that we would have fitted perhaps 50 into each trial area but BDC wanted to test a method pioneered in Japan (the Miyawaki Method), popular in the Netherlands and increasingly used in the UK whereby the whips are densely planted. The theory is that the competition for light and space will accelerate growth and result in a more natural woodland effect. The whips planted are field maple, holly and hornbeam, all of which can grow into sizeable trees. We shall follow the competition with interest!
In order to reinforce the existing tree line we also planted on the slope near the second trial area a number of whips and small trees provided by group members. These should fill the gap at this point without impinging on the new woodland planting.
Finally, before we set off to plant the second trial area, we met at Bramble Road to plant three silver birches, provided by BDC, to enhance the existing planting on the side opposite the World War 1 Memorial Park. This completed one of our busiest planting seasons with some 70 mature trees and 500 whips in the ground. All we have to do now is water them, and last year’s trees, throughout the summer. As the pandemic restrictions begin to ease, I am sure we all hope for good weather to enjoy our restoration to something like normality but let us hope at least for more rain than we have had in recent years.
20 March 2021