I have written this here rather than in “comments” to my other post on Tree Planting as things can get a bit lost in there.

I recognise there are many good new tree planting schemes done by organisations and individuals. But I think there is a need for debate and reflection, which is what I present below.

There is a scheme called “Keeping Rivers Cool”


which is designed to protect certain rivers from the effects of climate change, particularly the salmon and brown trout. The River Ribble is one of these, including all its headwaters and streams, which is why the little Wycoller Beck has been blizzard planted as in my previous photo.

Also this EA link is very good:-


If you read the above pamphlet by the Woodland Trust it does explain how this should be carried out. There is really good advice about leaving glades, self-seeding via fencing-off, avoiding flower rich habitats etc.

It also contains the recommended planting distances of 2 to 3 metre spacing. This is for quick canopy closure to gain ‘control’ (i.e. vegetation suppression) quickly. This spacing seems to be a general recommendation for most tree planting schemes. I don’t know where this originated, unless it is a throwback to commercial FC conifer plantations but it seems very wasteful in terms of resources and labour.

And there lies the problem. This ‘control’ of vegetation on many sites is so complete it goes extinct, particularly when the planting body has no rights over the land and what the private owner may do (or not) after a few years. The planting scheme might have pleasant visions for the future but the actual landowner have none.

It may be better to recognise this probability and space the trees out in the first place.

Oak saplings don’t need weed control, they will grow strongly through grass. The acorn is designed to do this for when Jays plant them outside existing woods, or in very open woodland glades.

Oak is a pioneer species, more so than Birch which prefers bare ground or is an opportunist in existing woodland. Paradoxically you won’t get Oak saplings in an Oak wood. Just as you don’t get Ancient Trees in Ancient Woodland.

What seems to happen on the ground, however much prior ecological surveying is done, is the usual uninspired close planting. The numbers of saplings are ruled by the Grant system.

There must be a way of designing (and paying) for new woodlands that will last for the future and actually work for people and wildlife–or what is the point in them?

Having said all this—- the most important thing for any woodland, new or old, to exist long term is to keep the sheep out.