Together, we have shown we can come together as a creative human network, respond to potential ecocide, receive, distribute and plant many thousands of beautiful trees, ensuring future forests of oak are now growing on this Island – as a radical act of love for our planet.
This campaign started in April 2020, in the early days of this COVID pandemic, as we navigated those early days of fear and entrenchment – when Rob Newby picked up a media article that 750,000 oak saplings, quercus robur, were scheduled to be destroyed after a Government contract buying them for it’s annual planting schedule, was abruptly cancelled. The nurseries panicked, leaked this to the press – Rob sent it to me late one evening: I cursed, mulled and slept on it – and the next day we rolled up our sleeves and reached out to everyone we know (everyone we know loves the incredible worlds of trees) – Rob has been a coppicer at Wakerley Woods in Rutland and his care for trees and woods is palpable when you meet him, and we knew this was something we must intervene in, and at the very least, do all within our power to draw attention to.
We hope that we’ve exposed a flaw in the ‘system’ – within the death knells of this capitalist ideology we are living within, living beings become a commodity – the same way we treat animals for food or for skins, as a resource, or the earth to be plundered and decimated for oil, for stone, for all the jewels of the earth – these trees were suddenly worthless. We still paid a small negotiated ‘fair’ financial price to the Nursery, and for delivery and for some of the fuel to move them around in large numbers – and we have been a long way off rescuing them all – we couldn’t have stormed the Nursery fences and removed all 750K in the dead of the night – mid-way through, we were also offered a large number of mixed broad leaves, from another source, and we tried to get them out and mixed into oaks requests too. So there’s a large number of goat willow, rowan, hazels, dog roses, sessile oaks and a few others out there in the mix too.
It’s a been a huge privilege to work with passionate and committed friends to make this work: Rob, Bell, Tash, Rob McB, Mark, Rebecca, Luciana, Ronan, Kevin, Jethro, Richard, Amanda : all who have stepped up to be sub-distribution hubs to receive, collect, give out trees up and down the Isle; all those who have put money in the pot to pay for all this; Canopy & Stars for coming through at the last minute to help with funding and more; James Canton for topping the campaign with a launch event for his book ‘The Oak Papers’ (link on this website), and so many more for advice and encouragement. Together, it takes community to grow forests. We re-make ourselves in the process, and grow out our roots in new directions and connect in beautiful new ways of entanglement and reaching for nourishment & medicines. We connect physically and emotionally as more than human. Save The Oaks has found its niche within the wood wide web.
The biggest learning that has emerged for me at least – it was always there hovering in the background but is not always at the centre of it all, is access to land in this tiny Island.
How do we the commoners access and engage with land that has long been carved up by the land-owning class through fealties, laws, inheritance and more? There is such a tiny proportion of land that really is public that it makes a mockery of the term public land. There’s great work on this being doing by Guy Shrubsole, Nick Hayes and others, and we all need to focus on public access and how land is used. We as a campaign were clear at the start that we hope to acquire land for stewarding newly-planted woodland: this hasn’t happened yet but lots of conversations are bubbling, and we’ll keep the pot lit. Please shout with any ideas, offers, theories etc etc.
From a farmers field in Barrington, South Cambridgeshire, to a farm in the Lake District, right across North and South Wales, the Marches, throughout Cornwall and Devon, Bridport, Somerset, Sussex, London, Kent, Essex, Norfolk and Suffolk, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Northumberland, the Scottish Borders and right up across Ayr and the Central Belt to Edinburgh and Glasgow – these trees have been planted!
All we ask is that you care for the trees you have planted, and let’s nurture them today and onwards. Together we have committed radical acts of love for the planet.
Below are some of the many images that have come in to our facebook ‘oak guardians’ page of the various plantings and tree care events – please keep the images coming & we’ll keep sharing!
And, if you would like to make a donation and haven’t already, or know someone with some dispersible funds that need an ethical green action (& maybe land?) to donate to, here’s the link: