For many communities throughout the country preparations will be in hand to celebrate the coming of a new Spring. It is a great time of the year - climbing out of winter and starting to look at things afresh. Although we might be a little early, the Conservation Foundation is encouraging many schools to get into spring-mode by distributing to them the first of what we hope will be several thousand trees in our Great British Elm Experiment.
The roots of the Foundation go back to the Elms Across Europe campaign in the eighties which planted a large number of hybrid Sapporo Autumn Gold elms, many of which, I am delighted to say, have grown into substantial trees. But the elms we are using in The Great British Elm Experiment are different as they are young native elms propagated from healthy trees 60 years old or more which are still growing in various locations in the countryside.
Schools have been chosen because this is a long term experiment and whilst the pupils will come and go the schools should remain and provide regular monitoring through the years ahead. Planting elms in schools also gives us the opportunity to tell young people about the elm and its heritage, for them to discover why they are in Elm Class in Elm school in Elm Road when there are no trees around. It is also a great way to explain the nature which surrounds the elm in this special international year of biodiversity.
As more trees become available at our nursery, we will supply trees to the many local authorities, golf courses, farmers and landowners who want to join in our experiment. And ‘experiment’ is the word for it for we do not know what the result will be. All we know is that the parent trees have resisted the disease or recovered from it. Or may have simply been in the right place at the time for the disease to have missed them. With the care of the schools our young elms will be safe for the next few years, but in ten years they may be less happy and content.
The elm has such an amazing history and heritage that there are many enthusiasts around the country who are supporting this experiment. Many are doing elm projects of their own and through the experiment we hope to link their enthusiasm and expertise.
The Great British elm may be down - but it ain’t out - yet!