A few months ago, a random man knocked at my door and announced that he was Indaria Trimi-Trays which I thought was a nice name (if a little ethnically unusual for a stocky white bloke with a neck like a water butt). A few sentences later, I had deduced that he was “In the area, trimming trees” and was wondering if I would like mine seen to. It just so happened that in my back garden I had an Elder (the tree, not a grandparent) that had been growing adjacent and partly through my shed, probably thanks to some long-dead squirrel who decided it was a good idea to bury some berries, or seeds or whatever it is that begets a tree in the wrong place. I had been meaning to deal with it for ages but, what with general events of the past five years, it had never been a priority. Indaria had a look and announced that he would charge £150 to do what needed to be done. However, I had no intention of making such a generous contribution towards his sister's big fat light-up wedding so we settled on fifty squids to cut it down, treat the stump and take away the wood. I had saved the shed and allowed the adjacent apple tree more room to be happy and revel in its bountiful fruitfulness. Or something.
When Mini-Me came home from school, I was quite excited to show her the day's progress and ready to bask in her praise for being such a canny bargaineer. “Oh Mummy!” I imagined her saying, “You ARE clever to have have saved a hundred pounds while removing an eyesore and creating necessary breathing space in our sprawling wilderness.” Or words to that effect.
Well, how unpredictable and inconsistent my little cheerleader is. Far from being pleased and proud of me, her face shook with horror and disappointment (-as though I had just shown her pillowcase full of freshly drowned puppies, in fact) and said “Oh, no!! We must look after the trees mummy, PLEASE!”
I blame Blue Peter and school.
What could I do? I had to make practical reparation.
Sai School of Harrow had joined the Woodland Trust Tree Planting initiative and asked parents to bring their kids to a specially organised tree planting day that would contribute to creating England's largest new native woodland. Of course, being a can-do, self -righteous, example-setting tree lover, I jumped at the chance to calm my and Mini-Me's karma. So, to her delight, we set off one Sunday after lunch and drove to Heartwood Forest up St Albans way. A shuttle bus picked us up from the car park at a local school and ferried us to the end of a lane at the bottom of a hill (very precise location) that was flowing with mud of the exact consistency of melted chocolate. Squelch, squelch, squelch went our wellies.
Onward, dodging cow pats, we trudged up the hill, now grassy but still very muddy; the sky waxing moodier and the wind whipping our faces harder with every step. We were so high up that I swear the air was thinner and at one point, I did wonder what on earth we were doing. After a mile , noses dribbling and thighs itchy with unexpected exercise, we reached the top. Hurrah! We were greeted by volunteers who demonstrated to us how to plant a tree before trusting us with our own spades and a pile of oaks and other varieties (Elders, possibly?) to choose from. It involved digging big holes and putting in trees straight, so that the roots were not squashed and the tree would not grow wonky. Have you ever planted a tree? It was difficult but very satisfying to locate a space marked with an orange spray-painted dot, dig into the hard cold ground, jump on the spade to ram it into the soil and lever out a big blob. Mini-Me had a constant smile of pride on her face throughout the job and we got through about 3 trees before giving up, laying down our spades and racing past the soup 'n' bacon buttie stall, back down the hill. As if planting a tree wasn't enough reward for itself, we further indulged ourselves with hot chocolate and cake at a coffee shop in St Albans. It tasted all the better.
Apparently the best time for planting trees is between November and March so, if we have inspired you with our exploits, (whether or not you have environmental sins to atone for) you have just enough time to join in Heartwood Forest's last tree planting event of the season on Saturday 19th March between 10 am and 3 pm. Visit woodlandtrust.org.uk/heartwood for more details or call 01476 581111.
Angelina Melwani runs Sing and Sign baby signing classes in Harrow, Bushey, Stanmore and Rickmansworth. More info at www.singandsign.com