Growing in the face of challenge – tree planting in lockdown
Shmaila Hayat and family planting a tree in Rose Hill. Image: ©Benedict Robbins
When Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon, a local community group, obtained funding from the International Tree Foundation in October 2020 to plant a community orchard early in 2021, they didn’t anticipate another full national lockdown. Orders needed to be put in to nurseries pretty much immediately so as to receive the desired varieties of fruit trees – which are always in high demand in autumn for planting in late winter. The tree planting group, headed by Katherine Owen, was facing a big challenge, when Tier 4 regulations came into effect in December and a new national lockdown was announced in January.
Yet the fruit trees, ordered and ready to go, need to be planted February latest, when they are still dormant. As government regulations allow volunteering during a national lockdown, as long as people are adhering to the rules and acting responsibly, the group decided to go ahead, albeit in the most covid safe way possible. After many discussions and planning meetings, a tree planting plan was drawn up, and a full risk assessment was written, which was granted permission by Oxford City Council and the police, as well as getting the go-ahead from the community group insurance. A planting rota was drafted, to make sure that no more than six people were working – 2 meters apart – at a time. The rota, as well as the risk assessment was sent out to 15 community groups of Rose Hill and invited them to plant a tree. These include members of Rose Hill Community Network, Youth Club, Football Club, the two churches, the Muslim, Syrian and Nepali communities, the Community Centre, Friends of RIvermead, Friends of the Fields, Rose Hill Runners, Good Gym, Oxford City Farm, Katie’s Nursery and Lenthall Road Allotments.
Cllr Ed Turner, Anneliese Dodds MP and family plating a tree in Rose Hill. Image: Cllr Ed Turner, Anneliese Dodds MP and family. Image: ©Benedict Robbins
On 27 February, while the sun was shining and spring was making its presence felt, community groups sent a representative (and members of the same family bubble) to plant THEIR tree on the local recreation ground. Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon tree planting expert Richard Vernon welcomed them and explained the planting procedure. Trees that were planted are: several Apple varieties, Pear, Cherry, Mulberry, Hazel, Walnut, Almond and Elderberry. The community groups are adopting their tree and will care for it during the years, which means regular mulching, weeding and watering. Thanks to extra funding by the City Council, a water tank is to be installed at Rose Hill Primary School, gathering rain water and storing it for dry spells.
On 2 March, the pupils of Rose Hill Primary School will plant their own 15 fruit trees. In time, they will learn at first hand how to water, mulch and care for them – and finally to enjoy free fruit and nuts!
Thanks to the hard work of Rose Hill and Iffley Low Carbon’s tree planting group and the great commitment of all Rose Hill residents, the new orchard will bring much joy to the community in the coming years. Despite the lockdown, this tree planting was made possible by hard work of all involved and good communication with local authorities.