There are many elements to my work at Hyde Hall. It is so much more than just doing some weeding, lawn edging and the odd bit of planting. Since Christmas I have been up to my ankles in mud, planting bare-root trees by the hundred on the estate perimeter
It is the long term aim to gradually re-establish a native woodland back at Hyde Hall. While the hilltop area remains a beacon of well-manicured horticultural perfection (almost – there is always room for improvement!) the wider estate is home to a more naturalistic, native and wildlife friendly approach.
Planting the trees is no easy task. We are each issued a bag containing about 100 whips, a spade and most importantly a scraper. Hyde Hall is home to some of the stickiest clay soil ever. It will find its way onto your boots making it look as though you have size 46 feet and attach itself with limpet-like ability to your spade - hence why the scraper is up there with your tools of necessity.
We plant in long rows as this is easier to get the mower and water bowser along at a later date. Once the tree is firmly planted we then add a sturdy guard around to protect it from the bright sun, drying wind, extreme cold and the occasional errant brushcutter! Essentially the guard creates its own mini microclimate. For the first year or two the entire area looks like a sea of plastic tubes until the young trees have grown enough to pop out over the top.
It has been a tough three weeks but we have managed to get 5,000 trees into the ground. We have had all kinds of weather from stinging hail, gale force winds, driving rain, snow and even some brilliant winter sunshine. It’s worth knowing that despite the numb fingers and aching back it will be worthwhile in years to come.
Over the years we have planted some 70,000 native and wildlife friendly trees throughout the wider estate, including Acer campestre (field maple) Crataegus monogyna (hawthorn) and Quercus robur (English oak) to name but a few. Some of the earlier plantings are now maturing and we have incorporated a winding network of pathways for visitors to enjoy under the developing canopies.