Tree planting season is always the busiest few weeks in my diary, but Covid made the task even tougher at our new Community Woodland near Houghton Conquest and Ampthill - thankfully help was on hand...

By Jo Roberts ǀ Community Engagement Officer, Forest of Marston Vale

Every year in recent history we've worked with our supporters, local communities, corporate partners and members of the public for our tree planting events; being able to create new woodlands relies so much on this huge support given by the people of Bedfordshire, turning out in all-weather to help us plant trees with families, friends and colleagues.

This year like with so much else, Covid put a stop to that.

We still had a woodland to create though, with thousands of trees ready and waiting to go in the ground. So - with all Government guidance and safe working practices - we turned to our fantastic volunteers for help.

Our contractors took on some of the planting, leaving a plot of 2.64 hectares for the volunteers, with 5160 trees to plant.

I put the call out on March 10th, hoping to rustle up a couple of helpers for the following week. The response was fabulous. By the end of the weekend, I had a list of over 30 people - long-standing volunteers and local residents who we'd met through the consultation process - who’d signed up to help out. Once we’d got a rota together, we could start planting; all I had to do was get the spades and hammers together.

It took 2 weeks, and we faced all weathers – from glorious, warm sunshine to relentless, driving rain showers - but the volunteers didn’t once complain.

Social distancing over such a large area was very easy, and because of the lack of facilities most of us worked right through the day (with a little breather at lunchtime to re-fuel!)

After a year of bad news and worry, being out on site was so uplifting.

Everyone seemed happy to see friends, and to get stuck into what they love doing. It was hard work, with slopes to contend with and a large area to cover, but as we worked through it was fantastic to see the progress we were making.

This was the first time I’ve planted such a large site, and every day I went home beaming – worn out but so happy.

At the end of the two weeks I think everyone felt they’d achieved something quite special, and I hope the community agrees.

Creating the Forest of Marston Vale takes an enormous amount of resources, and as a charity we rely heavily on public support and donations to be able to continue our work.

If you're able to, please consider becoming a Friend of the Forest and making a small regular donation to help us grow.

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