The seeds of my tree planting were sown (pun intended) by a local digger driver.

A couple of years ago, he was here doing a bit of drainage work and we were working near the bottom of a field called The Moss Brae (the clue is in the title – it’s a sloping hill that runs down to a moss).

I was lamenting the couple of acres of wet, rush-strewn land and he took a long drag on his fag and casually told me I should plant it in trees.

He reckoned it would be the best way of drying the whole area – isn’t it funny how something can be staring us in the face, but it takes a wee nudge to open our eyes to the blindingly obvious?

This started a process which began with some advisory phone calls to The Woodland Trust and has finished with just short of two acres of trees being put in under the DAERA Small Woodland Grant Scheme.


The real irony of this situation is that my father harboured a lifelong (unfulfilled) ambition to drain this wet area, with a view to increasing its agricultural productivity, and I have done the complete opposite. I suppose it will end up dryer due to all the tree roots, but just not in the way he envisaged.

This DAERA scheme is for areas greater than 0.2ha. The long and short of its attraction for me was that fencing and establishment costs are met with grant funding.

There is also a modest payment per year for 10 years and retention of BPS on the area planted.

Livestock must be excluded for the same 10 years, and thereafter are permitted to graze the entire area. All in all, what’s not to like about it?

Radio silence

From applying online (with much appreciated help from my Woodland Trust adviser) in June 2023, I heard nothing for months.

In October I fired off a few concerned emails, since radio silence had been deafening, and got some ‘don’t panic Captain Mainwaring’ responses.

However, with the end of the window for safe tree planting drawing ever nearer, by the middle of March I really was getting worried.

Finally, a letter of offer came through on 22 March, and once I had accepted, I relaxed and phoned my designated contractor. He put the wind up me by pointing out they were nearly four months behind due to the delay at DAERA’s end.

However, they managed to get here, and the planting was carried out on 8 May.


I have no concerns about establishment of the whips in such a damp site (it may even be a blessing in disguise, given the wet winter), but if young saplings were transplanted in a dry site in late May, I think I’d be worried about water availability for those fine roots.

Due to the squelchy nature of my site, the predominant species are birch, willow, and alder. I suspect my father would have referred to them as ‘gorbage’ and would have wanted to attack them with a flail hedge cutter. How times have changed.

The young trees are fairly pathetic looking at this stage. However, the tree guards give them an air of respectability and should help protect them until they get going.

The most surprising aspect of the whole business is just how excited I feel now it’s up and running. I would never describe myself as an environmentalist and yet this feels like the right thing to be doing.

Am I going soft in my old age? Has there been some sort of organic, vegetarian, Greta Thunberg lurking in the recesses of my brain all this time? Either way, I haven’t time for these idle musings just now – I’m off to spray some insecticide on a neighbour’s spring barley.