Good things come in trees

Growing our community tree nursery

Thanks to National Lottery Players and Eden District Council, (now Westmorland and Furness Council) in October 2022 Eden Rivers Trust took control of a plot of land on an allotment in Penrith. The dream? To create an accessible community tree nursery that would open a doorway to conservation; a place where local people, volunteers and community groups could learn about trees and the river and work together; growing and nurturing locally-sourced seeds.

The resulting native saplings will be planted on river conservation sites throughout the Eden catchment; creating food and homes for wildlife; helping manage the flow of water over land and storing carbon.

In this blog, we follow the progress with Jenni, (our Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator), the volunteers and community groups who are embarking on this adventure with us.

Where there's muck, there's ... worms?!

December 2023

The hats have come out! and we’re queuing up for all the physical jobs at the tree nursery to help us keep warm outside now the temperatures have dropped.

Moving our first ‘compost’ heap – to a more convenient spot – has been a revelation. Just a year after we cleared the site and mounded up everything into a head-height mound, we found that the worms and the weather had worked their magic, amazingly starting to break down the problem weeds into something that we might ultimately be able to use.

A woman uses a shovel to turn over earth on the compost heap, whilst two others look on.

Tending to the compost heap.

Worms wriggling in out out of a compost heap.

Worms doing their thing in the compost heap!

The heap was a third its original size with a lot of worms – a bed, a clew, a clat, a knot or my favourite, a wriggle(!), tucked in away from the cold.

I don’t know how many of the 27 British species have found their way there, but I do hope that Lumbricus festivus is among them to reinvigorate decomposition over the Christmas break and into our second year.

Tree-mendous Tuesdays at the tree nursery

February 2023

Nearly 2 whole months into 2023 and we’re beginning to get a feeling for just how good this tree nursery could be . . There are rows (and rows) of little trees lined up in pots, trays of prepped seeds waiting for a sliver of spring sunshine to burst into life, painted benches and plant tables, a beautiful hazel hurdle fence, gates that work, a mended shed, a mountain of donated topsoil and snowdrops strutting their stuff on the bank at the front.

Snowdrops in bloom in a small bunch in the ground
volunteers with a huge, curling length of plastic tubing

Plastic tube to drain water from the tree nursery fence to the newly-dug pond

It was a bit wet over the winter. They said it would be, but none of us thought it would affect everything quite as much as it did. A couple of months of mud and gloop, and ground like a pop-up ice-rink and we’d all had enough. Something had to be done to make the site accessible – so, we dug out an area in the far corner, made a drain to channel the water through and hey presto – we’ve got an extra bit of wildlife habitat and we no longer have to navigate the mud! Well, we are a Rivers Trust after all!

We’ve also started regular Tuesday afternoon sessions (1 pm to 4 pm) most weeks, to make it easier for anyone who is interested to get involved with the project. You can come and join in for 5 minutes or stay for the whole afternoon if you get inspired.

No experience or special skills are needed as there are lots of different jobs that need doing to develop the space and grow the trees – it really is a case of the more the merrier! Please get in touch if you would like more information or pop over on a Tuesday afternoon and to see what we’re all about.

Lots of black plastic plant pots with twigs (future trees) planted in them
Eden Rivers Kingfisher Icon

Seeds, seeds seeds!

November 2022

It feels like I should be writing a mega thank you to everybody who came out today, rather than another entry for the blog.

What a day! Wet, windy, sludgy mud everywhere and a mountain of seeds to process from our last collecting trip. It wasn’t supposed to be quite that bad – but despite it all, and the lack of shelter, everybody got stuck into the serious business of popping the seeds out of the hawthorn, guelder rose, holly berries and crab apples that we collected last week. What an amazing bunch!

People sorting different types of berries

Prepping the seeds is a long, gentle job – and for some species (like holly) surprisingly smelly! I must admit, I was expecting rebellion in the ranks but in the end, it became a rather mindful experience with a satisfying outcome – pots of little nutty seeds all ready for growing . . .

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Season of Mellow Fruitfulness

November 2022

The haul from our first seed collection session – 387 rosehips, 256 sloes and 932 hawthorn berries! Now prepped and bedded down in a mix of sand and compost. This really feels like we’ve kicked off something amazing.

There’s a long way to go but there’s a truly tree-mendous(!!) amount of energy coming into our fledgling tree nursery site. Volunteers have muscled up for digging and shaping and pulling and clearing, removing grass and nettles, rebuilding the shed and rehanging gates.

Three plastic tubs containing red and black berries

We’ve had donations of barrels and logs and home-grown saplings to start us off, a mountain of pallets to turn into potting benches and worktables, bags of sand, manure and off cuts of wood and wire to hold it all together.

A massive thank you to all the volunteers, local businesses and individuals who have contributed right at the start of this fantastic project – and of course to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Eden District Council for initial funding. Let’s get Growing!

Eden Rivers Kingfisher Icon
National Lottery Heritage Fund logo
Garfield Weston Foundation logo
Eden District Council logo
Penrith Town Council logo