Posted by: lhct | January 5, 2023

Planting sees the old year out

On one of the last blustery days of 2022, a band of FCF volunteers put down the first roots – literally – of an imaginative project which should enrich the tree and hedge stock of the farm for years to come.

Project volunteers here (left) Tim Thomas, Tony Cook, Gary James (and far right) Andy Bateson
Photos: Andy Bateson and Dave Verrall (not pictured)

“A total of five 4m-tall native Wych Elm trees were planted in or alongside Parlour Mead, Wheat Rick and Chambers fields,” explains volunteer Tony Cook. “In time it’s hoped these trees will provide food for a number of moth and butterfly caterpillars, in particular the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly, the numbers of which have declined since many trees were lost to Dutch elm disease (DED). Wych Elms, particularly young trees, are viewed as having a resistance, although not immunity, to DED.”

More species will be planted in future months.This exciting project has been funded by money kindly donated to the Friends in a local legacy. If you would like to know more, or volunteer to help with planting, please contact the Friends.

A view of the task from Gary James
“I first got involved with volunteering with Friends of Chesworth Farm through helping in the creation of the Wildlife Garden, back in the spring of ’22. So, I thought I would branch out a bit (pardon the pun) and try my hand at helping plant some trees. We managed to get a relatively dry day in between the December rain. As expected, the ground was claggy with heavy wet clay, but all five trees were planted by early afternoon, even managing to squeeze in a tea break between the planting.”

“I admit that previously I was unaware of the Wych Elm but have since found out that it is the only elm regarded as being truly native to the UK. And that the name relates to the pliant nature of the wood, rather than to witches, who were said to shun elms. Let’s hope that all five trees successful take as The Woodland Trust informs us that many birds eat elm seeds and the leaves provide food for the caterpillars of many moths, including the Peppered, Light Emerald and White-spotted Pinion, as well as the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly mentioned by Tony.”

More elm history
Elms were common hedgerow trees and in the past it is likely that Chesworth had many. It was often considered the village craftsman’s “go-to” timber. Strong, but cheaper than oak and often more durable, it was particularly favoured for the seats of wheelback chairs or for structures where water resistance was needed. So it would be used for anything from chairs to drainpipes, wagon-wheel hubs to ships’ keels, washing dollies to water wheels. Wych Elm is far more resistant to disease that English Elm as it reproduces by seed rather than suckers. It is still found in numbers in the north and is now becoming more common in the English lowlands as more are planted. It tolerates damp soils and “poor air” well.
Tim Thomas

Chambers fence line, open to the elements


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