Thursday, 20 December 2007


( Project 15 on Projects Map)

After 4 Saturday mornings' work, we finished the Phillips Shelter Belt on Acol Hill on Saturday 15th December. We were delighted to welcome the founders of The Phillips Fund (our sponsors for this project), Bill and Dorothy Phillips who kindly planted the last tree (an Alder) for us. We were also pleased to welcome Anthony Curwen (Quex Park Estates), Sheila Bransfield (Chair of Acol Parish Council) and Bernie O'Grady (associate Head of Ursuline College). The little 'ceremony' brought together all the components that have made Trees for Thanet work so successfully over the years; sponsorship funding, farmers and landowners, the local community and hard working and enthusiastic young people.
This is the view of the Phillips Shelter Belt on Acol Hill as you head towards Birchington from Acol. 260 trees were planted and protected with mulch sheet and tubex tree shelters. A gap for farm machinery access was left towards the top of the hill. A mixture of the following 10 native British species was planted: Lime, Silver Birch, Ash, Alder, Field Maple, Hazel, Willow, Wild Cherry, Hawthorn and Wayfaring Tree. A single maritime Pine was planted after being donated by a passing villager!
This is the view from the top of the Shelter Belt looking south towards Acol Village and the belt of Leylandii screening Acol Caravan Park. Due to rain preventing the preparation of the 6m planting belt, the trees were planted into an earlier seeded winter wheat crop. This will have to be 'treated' and grass seed will be sown in the spring. The Shelter Belt will need maintenance for some time to come to develop a valuable wild-life habitat and aesthetically pleasing strip of woodland.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007


Saturday 1st December, found Trees for Thanet back on Acol Hill to plant the middle row of the Phillips Shelter Belt, less Silver Birch which were not available from the nursery. A mixture of Limes, Alder and Ash were planted. The photograph above shows the heavy duty mulch sheet being placed and dug in. The sheeting prevents competition for water from grasses and weeds as well as warming the soil in spring and retaining moisture in hot dry weather.

Each tree will be protected with a tubex shelter that allows light to penetrate and photosynthesis to occur in a warm still environment for lower leaves. The tubex shelter is held in place by banging in a securing stake. (see photo above)

60 trees were mulch sheeted and protected by the time work finished and the picture below shows the 'march' up Acol Hill has begun.

Monday, 3 December 2007


We were delighted that Infratil, the owners of Kent International Airport, Manston and Oasis Hong Kong Airlines agreed to sponsor a new hedgerow to be planted on the south side of Shottendane Road from the junction of Park Road to the junction of Minster Road.
The 530m hedgerow will be a double hawthorn hedge with wild cherry trees planted every 20m and will 'connect' to the end of our 'Millenium Hedgerow' in Park Road. (see Projects Map).

Work will begin this month and it is hoped that the project will be completed by the end of January/early February 2008. Hawthorns will be cut back to 6-8" and covered with black plastic mulch sheet to prevent weed growth, water competition and to retain moisture.

Members of Trees for Thanet had an enjoyable visit to Manston on Tuesday 27 November for the presentation of a generous cheque for £3,000 from our sponsors. John Armitage, Business Development Support Manager for the airport met the group and looked after all security aspects and very kindly arranged a trip in a fire tender for those whose ID was not adequate.

The cheque presentation was made by Matt Clarke, Chief Executive of Kent International Airport, and Gerard Clarke, UK General Manager for Oasis Hong Kong Airlines .Members were then given a guided tour of Oasis Hong Kong's 747-400 series aircraft by the Captain and crew who had landed specifically for the presentation. The Isle of Thanet Gazette were there to record the event!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007


We began work on the Acol Hill Shelter Belt on Saturday 24th November 2007 ; eleven volunteers turned up.
The shelter belt has had to be planted into the wheat crop but this will be treated in the spring and grass sown instead!

Hole digging was easy but the measuring and random sorting of species was a little complicated with the front and back rows being planted only at this stage. Smaller tree species were planted in these two rows and the middle row will be planted with larger species.

The mix planted was : 25 x Field Maple; 25 x Wilow; 25 x Hazel; 25 x Hawthorn; 25 x Wayfaring Tree and 47 x wild(bird) cherry.

The plants now await rain to wash soil into any air-pockets surrounding the roots and will then be mulch-sheeted and protected with tubex tree-shelters supported by a stake.

Thursday, 22 November 2007


We had hoped to start planting on the Acol Hill Shelter Belt Project but plants were not yet ready at our nursery. Instead, on Saturday morning of 10th November, the last of the plastic spiral guards and canes were removed from the 2006 planting on the Manston Road. They had supported young plants for two summers and their job was done! You can see piles of removed spirals in the back-ground and 1000 canes and spirals were dumped at Manston Amenity Tip later that morning!

Friday, 28 September 2007


The Phillips Fund has kindly agreed to sponsor the planting of a Shelter Belt of trees on the east side of Acol Hill.

Trees for Thanet, with the permission of Quex Park, will plant the Shelter Belt in November 2007.

The 270m long belt will be called The Phillips Shelter Belt and will run for 270m on the east side of Acol Hill and will 'join' the 'Pine Avenue' that was planted 100 years ago to provide an approach to South Lodge in Quex Park with the hedge around Acol Caravan Park.

260 native British trees and shrubs will be planted in 3 rows in a strip 6m wide with a staggered gap to provide farm machinery access. Each plant will be protected in tubex tree shelters with mulch sheet to retain moisture and reduce weed competition.

Quex Park has kindly agreed to drill grass seed into this strip and it will be kept to grass until the Shelter Belt establishes fully. The following species will be planted: Lime, Ash, Silver Birch, Alder, Wayfaring Tree, Hawthorn, Hazel, Field Maple Rowan and Wild Cherry.

The first photograph shows the view north up Acol Hill towards the 'Pine Avenue' and the second shows the view south down-hill, to Acol Caravan Park.

Thursday, 2 August 2007


The HSBC hedge was strimmed and weeded in early May (see post below) during a drought period in the driest Spring for many years and only took a few hours work. After 322mm of rain in Birchington since 24th May the picture below shows how vigorous 'weed' growth soon chokes a young hedge. Oxtongues, in particular, have been the nastiest to deal with as they not only took over the verge but also the strip between the hedge and wheat crop and are in the frame for a few bad 'strimmer's rashes'. The hedge has clearly benefitted from so much rain but has not responded with as much growth as newly planted sections or older established hedges. That said, as the picture below shows, the HSBC Hedge is in excellent condition 18 months from planting. The only exceptions are where vehicles leaving the Manston Road on the bend in the photograph are taking their toll of young plants. Not only has this road got much busier due to traffic going to and from Westwood Cross but the 1 mile 'straight' seems to be a challenge to some motorists to do a 'ton'. As the photograph shows, the bend is poorly signed and at night is 'invisible'; KCC has been urged to improve signing and put reflectors on the bend!

Sunday, 24 June 2007


The Try Angle Awards recognise the achievements of young people in our community and it was great news that Trees for Thanet Group was nominated again this year. Seven members were able to attend the Awards at the Winter Gardens on Thursday 21 June to find that Trees for Thanet had won the 'Citizenship and the Environment' category for Thanet.

It is the fifth time in the past 10 years that Trees for Thanet, as a Group, or as individual members, have had the work of its young volunteers recognised in such a way at The Try Angle Awards. It is great that the hard-work and dedication of the young members of the Group is recognised in this public way; their work of course, sits in the ground growing for all to see and will do so for many years to come.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007


The picture above shows yet another speeding driver paying the penalty on the bend on The Manston Road over the Saturday/ Sunday period of 16th/17th June. No damage was done to the HSBC Hedgerow and verge marks indicate the vehicle flipped over into its position in the wheat. This makes 6 vehicles known about since the hedge was planted in 2006. It will be interesting to see the damage done to the crop and The HSBC Hedgerow when the vehicle is recovered. Claims against the drivers insurers will probably have to be made.

Fly tipping continues unabated at the start of the Bridleway on Park Road and we have a washing machine and a pile of wood from a gardening weekend left by anti-social members of the public who cannot be bothered to go to the Recreational Tip less than a mile away. The QEQM Hedge is slowly catching up with The Millenium Hedge on the far side of the lane.

The picture below shows the dangers of litter. Members have found dead voles and shrews in plastic bottles, crisp packets and now in a vehicle light cover. Smooth shiny surfaces mean that once these small mammals are inside they are unable to get purchase with tiny feet to get out again. Death comes quickly through starvation for shrews but short-tailed voles have a lingering death unless rain fills containers and drowns them. This discarded litter claimed a shrew and a vole.

Monday, 18 June 2007

GREEN PLACES (Issue 36 / June 07)

Trees for Thanet gets coverage in The Landscape Design Trust Journal 'GREEN PLACES'. A former member of Trees for Thanet, Benedict Vanheems, joined our 10th Planting Season celebrations in April and very kindly submitted the article above.

Monday, 11 June 2007


The picture below shows the problem very clearly; 'Spot the Hedge?'
In amongst this lush early June growth is a double-row hawthorn hedge planted in early March 2006 on The Manston Road. The hedge was planted with spiral guards and supporting canes. The thick grasses and weeds not only compete for water but also prevent light getting into the smaller hawthorns. Another problem is the thick growth provides an ideal habitat for snails which seem to think that a new hawthorn leaf is the best item on their menu! The kit needed is quite simple: petrol strimmer and face and ear guard; old roll mat for aching knees; wellies and socks; gardening gloves; flask of hot coffee and big rubbish bag.
Both sides of the hedge are strimmed out to 2ft and on the road side, this entails strimming the whole verge for cosmetic reasons. Then its simply a case of get down on knees and pull everything out around and between the plants and lay detritus back between the rows to act as a natural mulch.

This section is now clear. Light can get into the plants; water competition is reduced and mulch helps retain moisture. Snails don't find it such an attractive habitat! Experience has shown that if the hedge is left overgrown, casualty rates of young plants rises dramatically.
The outcome is excellent but the job itself seems un-ending and is akin to painting The Forth Road Bridge!; no sooner do you get to the end ................. .

Sunday, 3 June 2007


The start of June saw the final plastic spirals and canes removed from the 2004/2005 Season's planting on the Manston Road and in Quex Park. This meant a total of 2,600 spirals and 2,600 canes were removed altogether after 2 years of supporting young plants. The picture above shows piles of spiral guards awaiting collection and removal. Due to the sun's UV radiation breaking down the plastic , the spirals become brittle and cannot be re-used.

Summer weeding is almost complete in Quex Park and the process is to carefully strim down either side of the young hedge and then hand-weed in between the plants with all debris then placed between plants and between the front and back rows as a 'mulch'. The 'mulch' helps suppress further weed growth and retain moisture and as a result competition for moisture is reduced. This , together with allowing light into the lower part of the hedge, improves growth and thickening of the hedge.

Weeding will move shortly to the Manston Road planting of 2004/5 and the 2006 planting , where spirals will stay in place until next Spring. Good rainfall on both May Bank Holiday weekends has meant that growth is not water stressed at the moment!

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

HSBC HEDGE - MAY 2007 (One Year On)

(Project 13 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

The HSBC Hedge was finished in February 2006 and heavy duty mulch sheet was placed over a double row of 'twigs' (60cm whips with good root systems cut off 15cm above soil line)

Looking north along the Manston Road from the corner of Sparrow Castle pumping station.

The hedge 'sign' at the south end by Sparrow castle pumping station.

The view south towards Sparrow Castle pumping station from the sharp bend.

The HSBC sign on the sharp bend.
There should be a cherry to the left of the telegraph pole but it was run over by one of the five cars that have left the road due to excessive speed on the straights leading to this bend since the hedge was planted. There are thin sections of hedge on both sides of the bend where car damage either in coming off the road or being towed back on to it has ocurred. No one bothers to report the damage so that insurance claims can be made!
The start of the hedge by Sparrow Castle Farm looking south to the sharp bend on the Manston Road.
There are two cherries missing between the one in the picture and the telegraph pole on the bend. Cars have caused more tree and hawthorn damage than the very dry weather in 2006 and the very dry spring so far in 2007.
The mulch sheet and change in planting method has paid off handsomely. A vigorous young hedge is now growing (except where cars keep driving through it!) and a few hours strimming is all that is needed to keep vegetation down along the sides of the hedge.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007


(See Site 1 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

The hawthorn is also known as The May Tree or 'The May'. The expression (from oop North) about "'ne'er cast a clout 'till mays out" does not refer to keeping a sweater on untill the end of the month of May but untill the May tree or hawthorn comes 'out' in flower!
The hawthorn or 'May' on the 'hump' opposite Sparrow Castle Pumping Station have never been in such fine blossom, as in the first week of May, 2007! The heavy winter rain and warm spring without rain since 31 March 2007 might be the cause. (click on pictures for more detail)

The 'wild' end of the site with the footpath used by workers walking to Cummins factory from Westgate just discernible to the right of the picture. This end is no longer strimmed and has become a site for Lark's nests and a fox! It is great to see a footpath used for its original purpose i.e. to enable people to walk to work, town or church from their homes.
The view back towards the pumping station after 11 years of care! The foot-path track on the left links to the bridle-way from the Pumping Station to Park Road with a further footpath across the field to Shottendane Road, by the junction with Minster Road, which runs down to Westgate and the Canterbury Road.


Sparrow Castle Farm sits at the corner of The Shottendane Road and Manston Road in Birchington and has become the rendevous for Trees for Thanet with the 'yard' providing easy parking space.

In November 2006, Trees for Thanet was approached by Ursuline College Science Department for help. A 'schools pack' of 30 very small trees (15cm plants in a small compost plug) had been sent to them by The Tree Council and a place to plant them was needed. At Sparrow Castle Farm, Quex Park Estates had already planted 5 limes and it was felt that a thicker copse of trees would set the yard off quite nicely.

On Wednesday 13th December 2006, a teacher and 2 BTEC students arrived after lunch to be instructed in planting and by the end of the afternoon, 30 small trees( 10 Silver Birch, 10 Hazel and 10 Rowan) had been planted. Trees for Thanet then finished off by putting out tubex tree shelters and mulch sheet around each young tree.
The photograph shows the planting site looking east along Shottendane Road towards Two Chimneys Caravan Site in the first week of May 2007. Trees for Thanet had strimmed the area earlier to prevent high growing grass and nettles from shading the small trees despite the mulch sheet squares! It will be interesting to see how such small plants progress and when they will grow out of their tubex shelters!

Monday, 7 May 2007

MANSTON ROAD (Phase 3) REPLANTING (Nov 2006 - Feb 2007)

(Project 14 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

Phase 3 of the Manston Road replant to re-establish a hedgerow that had failed after being notch planted in 2003 by a contractor was to cause Trees for Thanet some problems. There were large areas of Alexanders infestation right on the planting lines; the mild winter and early spring caused early leafing of hawthorns and rapid weed growth and the clearing of very old gaps on Woodchurch Road proved difficult.

Planting began on Saturday 18th November 2006 and was completed by Saturday 24 February 2007. By the end of March all mulch sheeting was on and Trees for Thanet members were ready to celebrate the end of the 10th 'Planting Season'. 1500 hawthorn were planted along the Manston Road down to Woodchurch Road with 19 dessert cherry trees planted at the same time. The method used was to cut well rooted 60cm whips about 12 cm above the soil line and plant them with a 'twig' poking above the soil. This 'twig' would then bud and leaf from the stem. A more flexible lightweight mulch sheet was then placed over the double rows and the edges spaded in. Clods of soil were then placed on the sheeting to combat wind lift until the edges were compacted.

A further 800 plants were planted in the same way in the old hedgerow gaps in Woodchurch Road and a new short hedge planted on the south side of the road upto the houses 100m from the junction. Two cherries were planted behind the larger gaps and one cherry planted beside the house.

A gap in the ancient hedge in Woodchurch Road close to Manston Road reaching the end of the clearing stage.
The 'digging team' hard at work on the cleared and strimmed planting line.

The second row of holes being dug behind the planted front row of 'twigs' by the passing bay in Woodchurch Road close to the Manston Road junction.
The front row of 'twigs' going in on the Manston Road.
The first of 22 dessert cherry trees being dropped off for planting behind the hedgerow.

The view northwards along the Manston Road towards Sparrow Castle pumping station from the Woodchurch Road junction. The canes were placed to let horse-riders know planted 'twigs' were in the ground and the hedge has been curved away from the verge to give traffic turning out of Woodchurch Road a clear view. Even with a clear view, speeding and careless drivers manage to go off the road and a collision on the junction cleared all the hedge on the lefthand side of this picture a few weeks earlier!

A lighter weight plastic mulch sheet enabled the sheet to be placed over each 'twig' and then with downwards pressure, the sharp end of each twig perforated the sheet. Not only was this speedier but the sheet was tighter to each stem. You will see a team ahead of the 'mulch sheeters'; because of the mild weather grass and Alexanders had grown back on the planting line and hand-weeding was carried out before placing the mulch sheet down in February!
The start of the new season's planting and the end of the previous year's. In February the 'twigs' planted in November had already started to leaf as the photograph shows and a little damage was caused to sprouting leaves by forcing the mulch sheet over. The edges of the mulch sheet have been spaded in using semi-circular edging knives; far more effective than square edged spades!

The black mulch sheet progresses south towards Woodchurch Road.
At the last gap planted (as Woodchurch Road approaches Reclamet) a thief lifted 16 'twigs' by cutting the mulch sheet and pulling the plants out. It is estimated that a thief has now stolen 60 plants over the past 6 years! This is very tedious as Trees for Thanet would rather come and plant his or her hedge in one go!
Trees for Thanet were delighted to finish Phase 3 of the Manston Road re-plant! It is believed that the longest stretch of hedgerows in Thanet now runs from Shottendane Road along the Manston Road to Woodchurch Road (HSBC and 3 Phases of re-planting). Almost 6000 plants have been planted into the hedgerows (5,925) and a total of 46 dessert cherries have been planted behind. It is hoped that this will create a riot of blossom for years to come!

Sunday, 6 May 2007

MANSTON ROAD (Phase 2) REPLANTING - March 2006

(See Project 12 on Trees for Thanet Projects Map)

After finishing laying mulch sheet on the new HSBC hedgerow, Trees for Thanet returned to the Manston Road the following week, on Saturday 25th February 2006. The task was to put a 1000 replacements in the ground before the planting season ended, starting where the previous year's 1025 replacements had ended. The finish of The Manston Road replanting would have to wait until March 2007.
The picture above shows 250, 60cm whips, in the process of being prepared for planting by wrapping plastic spiral guards around the whip and its supporting cane. This particular morning , Saturday 4th March 2006 was the sunniest and warmest of the season.

Trees for Thanet made a mistake in reverting to spiral guards but in a sense, the plastic mulch and cutting down 60cm whips to 15cm 'twigs' in the HSBC hedge was an experiment and it was not yet a proven technique. No one could have foreseen that precious little rain would fall until late May 2006 and that March would be dry!
The digging team in full swing. You can see the occasional plant still surviving from the original planting by a contractor in 2003 and wrapped in its perforated black plastic guard. Trees for Thanet became the object of curiosity of many passing drivers and passengers who had begun to use Manston Road as a route round to Westwood Cross and it was soon realised that they thought they were looking at ASBO kids doing their Community Service punishment!

Planters following up with the front row going in.

The digging team being caught up by planters as the plants laid by holes indicate. The 1000th plant went in 20m on the far side of the gate in the background on Saturday 18th March 2006. The view is south down the Manston Road towards Manston in the distance and the target to reach Woodchurch Road had to wait until 2007!
The drought of 2006 affected this phase of replanting badly. Plants did not have heavy rain to wash soil down to air pockets around roots and was actually light in moisture content whilst planting was in progress. Drainage on Thanet's upland chalk plateau is excellent but dry conditions soon led to water stress. Despite hand weeding, this section of planting suffered badly and so far has the worst casualty rate of any hedge planted by Trees for Thanet with a 5% loss so far. The torrential rain in 24 hrs in late May 2006 put an inch of rain on Birchington and saved this section from a worse casualty rate. Readers should note that commercial planters regard casualty rates of 15% as normal and acceptable!
Lessons learned in 2006 were:
a. On Thanet, with Global Warming creating even drier and warmer springs, mulch sheeting and 'twigs' with generous root growth are essential to get good establishment and to reduce casualty rates.
b. Planting beyond February is no longer an option as leafing has started and enough rain to 'settle-in' plants is un-likely.