River upland reforestation

Down below Elpha Green Cottages, the new trees on the east bank of Swinhope Burn are looking robust and healthy.

Several years ago, we saw the new green anti-rabbit/deer/sheep protectors standing tall on the river bank. It must have been a new environmental venture, with some tangible financial reward for the landowner, but we scoffed: they’ll fail; the sheep will have them in no time; it’s a waste of money. We were wrong; the trees are looking strong and sturdy, emerging brilliantly from their cylinders, and already making a difference to the near landscape.

Doubtless the effect of trees on upland river banks is one of the most cost-effective, and significant flood defences there are, if the trees survive. But now that they’re looking so healthy, I have a good mind to supplement our own hedgerow efforts with a lovely willow glade, situated in the boggiest bit of the front field.

The boggy bit down from the little field spring could be ideal for water-trapping willow

Once safely planted, protected from the winter ravages of hungry rabbits and rapacious sheep, the willow whips might grow into an enclosure which could be a secret chamber of delight, a place for the faeries to congregate, and for the grandsons to have an adventure.

More prosaically, the dense root systems of a grove of willows should soak up tons of water that would otherwise cascade down from sodden fellsides into the burn, and on to the river system, eventually spilling into the River Tyne and contributing to flood challenges at Corbridge.

Unfortunately for our pocketbook, we’re not really a large enough small-holding to envisage any Environmental Agency grant toward the planting, but even so, it’s nice to think about doing our bit for the neighbours downstream. I think it will have to be a late autumn planting project, and then perhaps a new growing feature will emerge in the lower field for us to enjoy throughout the spring and summer.

I know that the voting has started for this year’s ‘Tree of the Year,’ a public participation event invented by the Woodland Trust, but my vote would go to the young trees on the bank of Swinhope Burn, just because it looks like they’ve made it, and will do their work as passively, but as usefully as you could imagine, for many decades to come.

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