On Monday, I was stomping through the Millennium Wood in Cholsey when I spotted that it was the nineteenth birthday of this pretty little clutch of hazel, birch and ash.
Growing up as I did in Cholsey, I remember the close-cropped grass that used to occupy this land; banishings for cigarettes and fights on the outskirts of the football fields.
I remember the planting of the wood and thinking how my successors at the primary school dug into the earth on that cold November day while I worked a temp job and saved for university.
It warms the cockles to remember that hundreds – thousands – of communities across the UK chose to celebrate the turn of the millennium, not only by setting fireworks off in the sky, but also by planting trees down in the earth.
Once you start noticing the humble stone plaques that commemorate the hopes of those millennial tree-planters, you start seeing them everywhere. Two weeks ago, when staying at Castle Cottage in Wales, we tramped every morning up to a hilltop formerly known as ‘the lonely tree’, now a maturing copse also entering its twentieth year.
Today, we are in the midst of another mass planting that will dwarf the millennium celebrations.
As our various political parties scrabble to promise new woodlands that history suggests they won’t deliver (and isn’t enough anyway), next Friday Cornwall will begin planting trees for a forest that in ten years will cover thirty-two square miles, part of a strategy for the county to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030.
Thankfully, we are not our political parties and politics also happens on scales small enough that we can all contribute.
National Tree Week begins tomorrow. The Woodland Trust is running events across the country. Planting trees is the most obvious way we can show that we care for generations beyond our own, and about time spans that transcend the human.