Trying in vain to follow in the footsteps of Pete ‘Ironman’ Wharton, our arb consultants Sebastian Onslow and Sam Hobson decided to sign up for the Fund 4 Trees – Rural Ride for Research. Thankfully though this ride was not a race and the aim of the Ride for Research is always to promote and raise funds for the charity Fund 4 Trees, in this case there was the added bonus of two tree planting sessions at local primary schools along the route!
The ride headed out into the Chiltern Hills with everyone in good spirits looking forward to the ride ahead. Conversations came to an abrupt halt, to be replaced by very serious faces when the first off-road hill approached. A steep rocky hill got the lungs and legs warmed up before we arrived at Lewknor School for the first tree planting of the day. Over 80 school kids turned out and impressed all the riders with their knowledge of tree species, even teaching Russell a bit about tree biology in the process! Heritage Tree Services did a great job of preparing the planting and supplying the Ginkgo biloba which looked good in its new home. No doubt well cared for by all the enthusiastic children we met there.
Robin Harman, who owns and runs The Barn, gave us a guided tour of the common, including the dramatic stag-headed oak used in the filming of Midsomer Murders! Robin’s family has actually been at Turville Heath for six generations, starting with a relative who worked for Henry VIII and now Robin who grazes cattle on the common and recently was involved in the management of the magnificent historic lime avenue.
We forced ourselves back into the saddle after our break for lunch and made our way a little more slowly to the final school tree planting at Watlington Primary School. We were welcomed by over 100 children who were eager to get involved in Russell’s talk and reeled off an equally impressive list of tree species, showed off their knowledge of photosynthesis and the benefits of trees! Heritage Tree Services had beaten us there and were ready to go with the Liquidambar. The children volunteered to fill in the planting hole and get stuck in using shovels hands and feet! Finally there was the trademark shout of ‘Grow Tree Grow!’ to get the tree on its way.
Thankfully the ride back to the cars was a shorter cruise without any big climbs and rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable day.
It was great to know that all those children had experienced the tree planting and would have a connection to their schools new tree. The enthusiasm was promising and hopefully just one or two take the memories forward and may even pursue a career working with trees in the future, we hope! The money raised by riders will be used to fund ongoing research into all aspects of trees for public benefit.
What I can take away from the day is a new enthusiasm to take more opportunities to pass on knowledge of trees and the environment, especially to children. A few hours of your time and a new tree could make all the difference to a local school, forest school or community group and when you see the difference this makes, the benefit will be returned.
You can still donate HERE! Thanks to all involved and we look forward to the next one!!