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Nottinghamshire farmer creates an ‘edible woodland’ with the Woodland Trust

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David Rose is turning 6.5ha of arable land at Home Farm, Screveton, Nottinghamshire into an alternative food source by planting more than 4,000 fruit and nut trees. David has been helped in his endeavour by the Woodland Trust, which has provided advice on species, a scheme design and subsidised trees.

Woodland Creation Adviser Stuart Holm said: “It’s involved a lot of head scratching as, although we are used to creating woodland, this is the first time we’ve created an edible plot of this size. It was important that every tree was UK-grown and sourced, and we have achieved that, although it was particularly challenging to get hold of the quantities of sweet chestnut needed. Fortunately, we have a very good supplier who was able to graft onto rootstock from the UK to create semi-naturalised scions that we can plant out next year.”

Everything planted will produce a crop or bring benefits to the soil. Alder will pull nitrogen from the air and into the roots, as will black locust. Fruit species include apple, pear, cherry, plum, currants, gooseberry, raspberry, damson, whitebeam, elder, mulberry, wild service tree, apricot, quince, lime, Japanese silverberry, rowan, dog rose, sea buckthorn, medlar, hawthorn and crab apple. The nut trees being planted include sweet chestnut, walnut, hazel and almond. The trees arrived in early December and were planted by community volunteers and users of the EcoCentre – Home Farm’s education centre that aims to educate and inform people about what is happening in the working countryside. More trees will be planted in the New Year while the second half of the plot will be planted in another 12 months.

David intends the woodland to be a real community effort, offering volunteers the chance to plant, tend and harvest the crop as well as having a say in how it should be used. He also hopes to offer creative and practical courses, including art-based sessions and tree identification workshops. He has been working with the Trust for the past four years and has planted several trees to extend existing woodland and created a tree-lined labyrinth. He has also successfully diversified into alley cropping – planting rows of apple trees among his arable crops with the aim of increasing total yield and improving economic returns. Not only will the alley cropping produce an extra source of income, but the trees are also protecting and nourishing the soil, attracting pollinators and encouraging local wildlife.

David said: “Farming is going through such changes and there needs to be a way that smaller or medium-sized farms can have an opportunity to have a sustainable business. I believe that agroforestry gives the opportunity to produce food in a way that maximises the potential of every acre. Over the last four years the Woodland Trust has helped take the environmental management of our farm to a new level with the creation of a silvo-arable scheme that will provide economic, environmental and social benefits to both the farm and the wider community for years to come. This latest project is another great example of how their expertise will help the farm grow.”

David’s new venture is expected to bear fruit in five years, while the first nut crop will take seven to ten years to come to fruition. He is hoping to sell it to local greengrocers and within the community.

In addition to the conservation and wildlife benefits trees bring to local environments, research shows that having trees in the right places can bring significant benefits to farms. For a free, on-site, no-obligation consultation, farmers should call 0330 333 5303 or email plant@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

Photograph by Toby Roberts Photography/WTML

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