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How many days till Christmas?!

I caught up with our most ingenious, hard-working, and prolific of the Rothbury tree wardens, Alan Winlow, recently. Alan has long talked about creating some kind of fir tree plot, where the trees could be given away to needy people at Christmas. This is the kind of generous plan that comes easily to Alan, he has lots of these ideas, but unlike many others, he does actually follow through.

I caught up with him recently and he told me: "My Nordmann Fir Christmas Tree plantation is at last making progress. The trees have been thinking about starting to grow for more years than I can remember! I have arranged to donate the thinnings this year to Hospice Care".

Alan's Nordmann Fir plantation

Alan also told me about his success with ridding his willow plot of willow leaf beetle.

Alan: I have experienced two major problems at the Chester Hope willow plot this year. First, we have suffered a plague of willow leaf beetle that threatened to kill off many stools by simply eating the leaves as they appeared. (Just like a plague of locusts!) I am not in favor of spraying, but in some situations, there is no alternative other than lose the crop. I spent over two hours spraying all five thousand stools with Bugclear. The results were astonishing, and the woven mulch carpet was littered with hundreds of dead beetles seconds after the spray application. We have lost around a dozen stools from the beetle infestation – it could have been so much worse! I was surprised that predators of the willow leaf beetle did not make an appearance.

Eggs of the Willow Leaf Beetle, picture from Understanding Evolution

Willow Leaf Beetle feasting on Alan's young willow.

Dead willow leaf beetles (after treating with spray)

Alan's information made me do a bit of research about these small, highly destructive, little creatures. This is a good read, if you are interested:

It is not only the beetles that have been guzzling Alan's willow - deer have been having a good old graze also!

Alan: The second problem was even more severe as the local deer were eating the leaves of three varieties of willow as they appeared. Again, I researched the web and found some excellent ideas to stop the browsing. I have applied three of them – motion sensor/alarms, spraying with nasty tasting liquid and diesel soaked rags on a string around one variety. Strangely enough, it appears that the deer do not like the taste of the Bugclear, and they have decided to stop the practice of eating our infant basketry rods. Fingers crossed the situation stays that way!

OOPS! Deer attack!

The willow plot a short while after Alan made it as deer-proof as possible.

Finally, Alan told me about the amazing amount of planting that he and his small team have continued to do this year.

Alan: We recently planted up a section of the road verge at Newtown Park – the attached photo shows Jo Coulter planting a Horse Chestnut grown from the Cow Haugh Car Park mother tree. Note the wider diameter tree protection afforded by a rabbit netting guard.

Jo Coulter planting a horse chestnut.

Alan already has an MBE for services to the Environment and the Community in 2000. I wonder if it is possible to be awarded a second one? If so, he certainly deserves it! Look at this graph of the work done recently. I am in awe of this man and his hardy, small, team of Rothbury Tree Wardens.

From all of the Rothbury Tree Wardens, and, I am sure, from the people of Coquetdale, a huge THANK YOU, to wonderful Alan!


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