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The Best Time To Plant a Tree was 20 Years Ago

Last Sunday morning, I wandered down to school to show willing and lend a hand to our Green Council volunteers. Their latest plan involved constructing a few planters, in which to pop some saplings that, in time, will mature into a green screen at the front of the school, helping to reduce the impact of the traffic on North Hill. A worthy project that needed my support…

When I arrived it was clear that the project was a little bigger than I had imagined – ‘a few planters’ was more like 20, some of them three meters long. Hundreds of lengths of timber, generously donated by our local builders’ merchants, Buildbase, were stacked in the entrance to school, along with six tons of soil. With our sponsors, local MP and the press all set to attend a planting event on Friday, time was of the essence.

There are of course different approaches to managing a project. At one end of the spectrum there are those that plan absolutely everything meticulously, but avoid getting started in case something has been overlooked. On the other hand there are those that just go for it with determination, enthusiasm, positive energy and the confidence that, by hook or crook, the job will be done. The Green Council definitely falls within the latter, but seeing the task in hand, I have to admit feeling a little sceptical about their chances of being anywhere near ready for Friday.

Not wanting to say ‘I told you so’, after a hard days graft, one planter had been completed, no soil had been shifted and the entrance to the school was full of dumpy bags. On top of a large pile of soil, someone had stuck a Chinese proverb saying, ‘the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.’ Optimism is a wonderful thing.

However, what the Green Council volunteers achieved over the next few days was nothing short of miraculous. Every day more planters were constructed, lined, put in position and filled with layers of gravel, leaf mulch and soil. Spirits were kept high with the most fantastic food – the sense of camaraderie was tangible. I ably supported the team by helping to eat the food and asking, repeatedly, whether it was going to be ready in time.

Friday’s planting event was such fun with representatives from Buildbase and Octopus Energy, who donated the trees (and a pink fluffy octopus), Catherine West MP and Chris Collins, the Blue Peter gardener, all lending a hand. Our green councillors got stuck-in, planting the saplings that, over time, will mature into a dense hedge of native trees around our school, soaking up the pollution from North Hill.

They say many hands make light work, but this wasn’t light work – this was really, really hard work and a huge task completed by a dedicated team of parents, all for the benefit of our community. I’m impressed!

William