600 Tiny Trees, One Committed Community and a Big Wellbeing Boost
Friday 26 November 2021 was by far my most memorable workday. A day that demonstrated to me the combined superpowers of tiny trees and communities committed to making a positive change.
A blog written by our Communications Coordinator, Sophia Klose, who attended a Tiny Forest Community Tree Planting Day at West Berkshire Community Hospital ahead of National Tree Week 2021.
The benefits of working for an environmental charity
My normal workdays are spent sitting in the Earthwatch office in front of my computer, reading emails about the latest achievements of our programme delivery teams to be shared on our digital channels. Once in a while I have found myself thinking how great it would be to actually help plant a forest myself. There had already been an opportunity to learn how to take a water sample with the FreshWater Watch team during a recent lunchbreak. Planting trees seemed an equally rewarding endeavour to me. So I signed up for one of the ongoing Community Tree Planting Days on our Events page.
The joy of planting trees
Last year (before joining Earthwatch) I got very excited over a tree planting manual I had found online, which enabled me to successfully plant three little oak trees by putting acorns in tetra packs filled with garden soil. Spotting the first green shoots with miniature oak leaves coming out of the cartons sparked a mix of joy and excitement I hadn’t felt since my childhood!
Becoming part of the Earthwatch Europe team and learning in depth about the benefits of planting trees so that they form Tiny Forests – 600 trees planted densely in a tennis-court size plot – was a dream come true. Back then I didn’t know that one day I would be holding a shovel myself, happily “diggin’ in the rain”. That’s not an ironic statement! I could feel the icy wind, the cold rain starting and stopping again several times. But I felt entirely relaxed and unphased by these adverse weather conditions. If anything, it instilled a lot of respect for our Tiny Forest delivery team who brave the elements on a regular basis to teach communities across the UK how to plant these miniature forests.
Neuroconservation – protecting nature feels good
The link between nature and our well-being is well-researched and many of us have felt our nature love reawaken during lockdown. Helping to plant this Tiny Forest made me think of the concept of Neuroconservation. Engaging with the natural world and learning about the scientifically proven benefits of being immersed in wild nature can motivate us to protect it.
Holding a selection of tiny hollies, hazels, birches and other native tree saplings in my hand – first to put the tags on which will allow our science team to monitor the growth of the trees – then carefully placing them in the holes and finally seeing all these “baby trees” planted next to each other certainly made me feel that I do care about nature. I was part of a large group of people consisting of hospital staff, patients, local volunteers and the experts from our Tiny Forest team. Seeing everyone eagerly digging away, then spreading a protective layer of mulch, and finally looking at the result together was hope-inspiring.
Five ways to wellbeing – all in one day
Being (physically) active, learning something new, connecting with other people, giving something back to the community (and nature!) as well as taking notice of our surroundings are the five ways to wellbeing. This tree planting day ticked all five boxes for me.
It was an uplifting experience demonstrating the amazing things that we can achieve simultaneously for this planet and for our mental health. Yes, it genuinely feels good to do our bit to help mitigate climate change and leave a legacy for future generations.
Tiny Forests – places to relax and to learn
Talking of which, this Tiny Forest will not only be enjoyed as a quiet nature retreat by hospital staff and patients. It will also be used as an outdoor classroom by a nearby primary school, which we could see and hear very well from the planting site. It was great to imagine a group of pupils and their teacher sitting on the wooden benches we positioned near the entrance, learning about the trees and wildlife attracted by this Tiny Forest.
I very much look forward to coming back to Berkshire Community Hospital over the next years to see how the forest develops. If I lived more locally, I would seriously consider becoming a Tree Keeper to help look after this forest.
Eco-Anxiety and hope for the future
Back in the office, writing down my reflections, I find myself still smiling. Like many people I have felt my eco-anxiety growing over the last few years and the outcomes of COP26 did not feel particularly reassuring. But it gives me hope to think that our Tiny Forest programme is expanding, that the interest in planting trees and other climate solutions is growing.
Perhaps one day communities not only in the UK but also in other parts of Europe and maybe even around the world will be able to boost their wellbeing by visiting or planting a super tiny, super powerful forest.