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Buy a 'green' Christmas tree and help your local wildlife

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Please join your local wildlife trust today

Posted: Monday 4th December 2017 by bbowtblog

Christmas tree sales. Photos by Peter Crome

East Berkshire Volunteer, Tricia Marcouse explains why buying a Scots pine from your local Wildlife Trust helps local wildlife too

The annual sale of eco-friendly Christmas trees, natural decorations and gifts takes place over the weekend of 9/10 December across Berkshire. 

We are privileged in this area to have lowland heath; an internationally rare habitat.

Lowland heath is a transitional habitat of short shrubs on impoverished and shallow soils, with 'invaders' eager to take over. Fast-growing birch and Scots pine would soon shade out the heather if it wasn't controlled.

In the past, heathland was kept open by grazing animals, and the cutting of fodder and bedding materials. Now most heathland in this area (south of Bracknell) is surrounded by housing, and it is up to us to find practical ways to keep the 'invaders' under control.

After the Second World War, heathland was seen as “wasteland” and an opportunity area for housing, for road schemes and for agriculture. We lost masses, and if the military hadn’t had control of large areas for playing around with tanks, we’d be in an even worse position now.

In the 1980s, conservation volunteers spent quite a lot of their time on heathland throughout the year cutting down Scots pine, removing small seedlings and blocking drainage systems to maintain the heathland pools for raft spiders and dragonflies.

I haven’t a clue which genius moved us forward from “if you come out on the Christmas task please take a Scots pine home for your own Christmas tree (and save us the hassle of disposal)“ to “why don’t we flog them to others”, but it all started one year at Bucklebury Common. 

From there it expanded to Wildmoor Heath (Owlsmoor and Broadmoor Bottom in those days) and we had an annual knees-up with BeC and the BBOWT volunteers. Cutting trees and selling some at Rackstraw Road on Wildmoor Heath and taking some back to Reading for sale there.

Each year we cut Scots pine out of another area on the SSSI, and in later years this was followed up with stock-proof fencing and livestock that would eat and trample the regrowth and save further cutting.

As the availability of suitable trees at Wildmoor Heath reduced, we expanded our work. We cut at Caesar’s Camp, other parts of the Crown Estate, Decoy Heath and Pamber, and now we work with the military on the Thames Basin Heaths Special Protection Area at Sandhurst to help bring some of this overgrown area back into good condition.

Our customers are loyal and grow in numbers year on year. From an initial reaction of “that’s NOT a Christmas tree, it isn’t bushy enough”, we now have happy converts to the Scots pine.

Sure, it’s not as bushy as a Norway spruce, but that means you can see the decorations! Much more important is that it does not drop its needles and has a wonderful smell of proper pine (not the drain-cleaner variety in air fresheners!) If you are very lucky you get small pine cones as well.

Christmas tree sales 2017

This year the trees are for sale at the Nature Discovery Centre, Thatcham, Wildmoor Heath near Crowthorne, and Caversham Court Gardens in Reading.

If you are a loyal customer, then this weekend is the time to buy.

If you’ve never tried a Scots pine as a Christmas tree before then now is the time to start!

  • Saturday 9 Dec and Sunday 10 Dec, 11am-3 pm Wildmoor Heath car park, on the road from Crowthorne to Sandhurst, RG45 7PP
  • Saturday 9 Dec, 9.30am-1.30pm Caversham Court, Church Road, Caversham, RG4 7AD. Linking with St Peter’s Church Christmas Fair
  • Sunday 10 Dec, 11am-3pm Nature Discovery Centre, Lower Way, Thatcham, RG19 8DB**
    **NB: The M4 is closed this weekend between J12 and 13. All traffic goes via the A4 and there will be delays! Come to the Nature Discovery Centre via Crookham, Newbury or Bucklebury NOT via Theale.

And it’s not just Christmas trees. We have locally and sustainably harvested mistletoe, holly, pine cones and ornamental willow for sale as well. At Caversham Court and the Nature Discovery Centre you can decorate a willow wreath, and there are Christmas cards and calendars of course.

They’ll be something for everyone at all sites even if you don’t fancy our trees, so don’t miss it. 

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