Reprinted from Newsletter 100, dated 2001 August–September

Trees — remembering our work since 1989; total now is 27,000

Ian Rands

A group of 10 people in semi-formal attire look at the camera. Two of the men near the centre hold up an oversized cheque on which the word “telecom” is readable.

August 1989: An award for fencing the Wearyall copse and planting 450 forest trees. From left: Toby Beaumont, Ian Rands, Maureen Luckes (part-owner), Stephen Morland, Brian Vesey of Civic Trust, Gerry Andrews of County Hall, David Davis of British Telecom, John Brunsdon, mayor Mike Free.

For the 100th newsletter it seems appropriate to indulge in a happy reverie concerning the tree-planting sites and the tree-planting people.

I remember two large schemes, one at West Pennard and one at the Bretenoux Road, which Geoffrey Brunt organized involving children from Millfield — and our members.

Many recipients have cause to be grateful to Mr Tom Todd up on Beech Barrow, above Wells, who has given us over the years more than 800 young beech trees.

John Morland, Dennis Allen and Toby Beaumont will certainly look back with dread at the way we all slaved away to clear brambles and elder in the Wearyall copse before planting 450 forest trees, followed by a further 250 in the copse extension in the following year. Look at those trees now! They are a fine sight.

See the replacement trees in the cedar avenue at Butleigh. We won many prizes for this scheme, but what many people did not know was the hard work that went into watering the 68 trees in a summer just as hot as this year. I can still see Dick Alderton and Hilary Shakespeare dashing to and fro with buckets — and many others of us.

Neil Bannell of West Bradley collects seedlings, brings them on in his beautiful garden and then gives them to us for planting. Last year alone he gave us more than 70 forest trees.

Have a look at the row of ash and the “butterfly mound” and the marvellous hedge at the Tor Rugby Club. Barry and Vera Matthews were there, and Ruth Miller from West Pennard.

Two men in a field, planting trees.

The first oaks at Wick were planted in 1989.

Oak trees in cattle guards we have planted on Wick Hill, by Wollyer’s Bridge, Butleigh, and along the Street Road. The oak row from Paradise Lane down to Wick Lane has 135 trees, stretching a mile and incorporating the ancient Gog and Magog. Most of your tree-planting members have been involved in replacements and repairs for many of these trees and cages.

If you drive along the Dunstan’s Dyke, or the Watchwell Drove, or if you walk along the river bank between Cow Bridge and the Plunging, you will see our rows of withies — cold work in windy places for Brian Dicketts, Keith Matthews and for John Anscombe. He and I were the last two left on parade one February morning as the blizzard blew horizontally past us. How many withies? More than 260.

Our total of standard fruit trees, mainly traditional cider apple, is now at more than 900. Planting these is our hardest task. The trees are ten or more feet tall, have eight-foot stakes and six-foot cattle guards, ties and spacers. Alan Fear, Joe Keers and Richard Raynsford are stalwarts on the wonker for driving in the stakes, and Adrian Pearse is our patented digging machine. We have put in these trees (many within sight of the Tor, and over a hundred with the National Trust) in Lower Westholme, Bulwarks Lane, West Pennard, Compton Dundon, East Pennard and Pylle.

And how do we get our grand total up to more than 27,000 trees? The biggest schemes are for forest trees — in projects of from 70 to 1,500 at a time. Janet Morland usually walks or cycles to the site. Terry and Ann Carmen are always on parade regardless of the weather. These plantations can be seen at West Bradley, Pylle, East Pennard (the Gibbet clump — now there’s a story on its own. Would you like to tell us, Adrian?), Parbrook, the Bath and West showground, West Pennard and Butleigh.

To everyone who has been out with us in all weathers, and many more than I have mentioned here, may I (on behalf of the society) give my most heartfelt thanks.

To all members, and readers, who delight in the beauty of trees, I would say, “Go and have a look. You will be proud of what has been achieved.”