‘Statement Trees’ Planted At Entrance To Town – With More To Come

Trees are being planted across Shaftesbury this week in a joint initiative between the Town Council and Shaftesbury Tree Group.

Keri Jones from ThisIsAlfred met up with the pick-axe wielding volunteers on Tuesday morning. He found out where the trees are being planted and why.

It’s 9.30am on a misty Tuesday morning. A group of volunteers is standing on either side of the A350, just down from the Royal Chase roundabout. Tree Group members, Sue Clifford and Angela King, are digging a small pit for tree planting with a spade.

The women are standing on the grassy verge on the Lower Blandford Road junction side of the highway. They’re just behind the ‘Welcome to Shaftesbury’ sign. Across the road, Robin Walter and Bernard Ede are bashing the earth with a pickaxe. They seem to be striking solid rock.

“This is compacted subsoil and contractors’ debris, underneath a thin skim of about two inches of topsoil,” said Bernard. “On the other side of the road it’s virtually undisturbed topsoil,” It seems Bernard picked the wrong side. “This is more problematic, first of all to dig the pit but secondly to get the trees to grow. I think what we’ll do is move some of the topsoil from one side.”

I waited for a gap in the traffic and hopped across the A350 before the next lorry rumbled past. Sue Clifford explained what was going on. “We’re planting a small leaf lime tree, which will grow very tall and be very, very beautiful,” she said.

The group were planting a tree on either side of the road and the location at the ‘Welcome to Shaftesbury’ sign is significant. “We hope that it will become a wonderful way of both arriving at and leaving the town,” said Sue. “The view to the south is of Melbury Hill so our hope is that, long into the future, these two trees will greet each other across the road and form a wonderful framed view as you leave the town. And a framed view as you’re coming into the town.”

The Tree Group has considered their choice of tree, as Robin Walter explained. “The small leafed lime is a native tree of Britain. There are some in Duncliffe Woods, some very famous old ones, which had been cut down and which have grown up many times in the form of a coppice. It is a beautiful tree. There are some very tall ones in St James’s Park,” said Robin. “They will grow to 25 meters – tall, elegant trees. They have lots of flowers in the spring and early summer, which then turn into little kind of bobbles. They have a very distinctive seed and they’re very good for bees.”

In addition to this pair of ‘statement’ trees, which will grow into a green gateway to our hilltop town, the group will plant more trees. “We would like many more, especially in the newer areas of Shaftesbury to the east,” said Sue. “Work is going ahead to put some smaller trees in along some of the roads there – Sweetmans Road and Pound Lane. There will be more because it will help the birds and bees.”

Again, the choice of tree has been thought through. “Those are field maples, a native maple,” explained Robin. “They are slightly more compact. They grow to about fifteen meters. They are more rounded as opposed to the tall, thin limes and they have fantastic autumn colour – the leaves turn bright yellow. They’re really nice trees as well.”

Field maples are a common hedgerow tree around Shaftesbury and have recently been planted in Bleke Street and along Grosvenor Road. English oak trees have been chosen to mark the county boundaries with Wiltshire. The trees are being planted inside metal work, which will protect them as they grow. The Tree Group has chosen metalworker Malcolm Sansam’s design, which they feel will enhance the appearance of our town.

“He is based in based in Wincanton and he works in iron and steel. He produces these wonderful things. We were amazed when we found them,” said Sue.

“We think they are splendid. They are works of art and statements in their own right and very robust,” said Bernard. “If the Town Council, together with the Tree Group, proceed with more tree planting like these statement trees then we can keep this design consistent so it becomes identifiable. They are extremely well made. I just hope the chap keeps making them.”

Sue says the iron guards serve a purpose. “In the first few decades of the life of these trees, having a protection like this is important. It says, ‘Here I am. I may be a bit puny at the moment. But I’m gonna outgrow you’,” Sue explained.

The Town Council has funded this project. The Dorset County Boundary Research Group has also supported this scheme. “Andrew is helping us today from their groundwork team,” said Sue. “The effort is also coming from the Shaftesbury Tree Group and tree lovers who just want to see it happen.”