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Planting Trees with Plant One Cornwall – Tuesday 9 January 2024

It’s snowing when the team arrive at their destination, Cabilla, Bodmin Moor.

We were the first to arrive (always prompt us DowlingDodd lot😉) and you can see on our faces the questions “are we out of minds and will anyone else turn up or are they staying warm and cosy like normal sane people?”   It seems that in fact there are at least 30 other people in Cornwall from various companies who are just as willing as us to brave the freezing temperatures and stand on top of a hill armed with spades, mallets, stakes, plastic guards, and buckets of saplings ready to do their bit.

There has been a lot of publicity over recent years about planting trees, government manifestos and there are many opportunities to plant a tree as a gift etc.   That said, there has also been some bad publicity and differing views about whether planting trees is good or bad for the environment.

Plant One Cornwall conduct an in-depth survey on each and every site they plant, would never plant on an unsuitable site and all trees planted are those best able to cope with the site conditions.   This means that not all planting days have the same objective.  So, once everyone is assembled, Rai and Carl tell us a bit about what we are going to be doing that day and why.

It’s hard to imagine that at one point our little island was 98% covered in trees, but it was a shock to hear that only 2% of our ancient wild wood survives now.

Today though, we are focusing on what is known as the Celtic temperate rainforest which ran down the west coast from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to Lands End in Cornwall.  Nearly all of this is gone and what remains won’t if we don’t intervene.

Cabilla, Cornwall have the huge honour of stewarding a surviving 100 acres of temperate rainforest in their valley and have been working now for several years on the The Thousand Year Project which aims to triple the size of this forest.  Plant One Cornwall, with the generous help of their partners and volunteers, have been assisting them in reaching this goal.

Much of this forest is made up of Atlantic Oakwood and that is what we would be planting today.  This wasn’t a competition on how quickly they could be planted and how many a person could get in the ground, our aim was to do everything we could to give each little tree the best chance to survive.

Just in case you were wondering at this point why we were planting on a freezing day in January rather than on a lovely warm July day, the tree planting season is October to March.  This is the best time for transplanting as the tree is ‘dormant’, there will be no need for watering and it will establish a nice healthy root growth below ground in the warmer days of winter before breaking into new growth in the spring giving them the best chance of survival.

After telling us all a bit about why we were there, Rai then showed us a flipchart map of the site with kidney shapes and circles within circles which was our tree planting plan.  Why the circles?  Apparently, we humans when asked to plant randomly can’t help ourselves but plant in lines!  Too neat by far and the aim is to make these new woodlands look as natural as possible rather than a farmed forest.  The kidney shapes?  Forest glades for diversity.    Once our oaks were in, these circles would be infilled with other native trees.


After a few hours of being separated into groups and merrily planting away our circles of trees, a few Irish jigs in an attempt to keep warm and lots of laughing, we went from a hummocky grassy field to a sapling nursery.  What an achievement.   We can’t wait for summer maintenance and we will definitely be donning our 25 layers of clothing for next winters planting 😊

We would like to say a very big thank you to Plant One Cornwall and Cabilla Cornwall for all the work they do.  They are amazing, pioneering people working incredibly hard for us, our wildlife and the environment.

In this article I have only touched the surface of what Plant One Cornwall and Cabilla are trying to achieve and I encourage you to visit their websites for further information:

Published 11 January 2024

Written by: Teresa McKinstry MInstLM