National Trust takes an ax to its plastic tree guards


National Trust takes an ax to its plastic tree guards as it experiments with more environmentally friendly ways to keep animals from harming saplings

  • The National Trust plans to grow 20 million new trees by 2030 while reducing CO2 emissions to zero
  • It has dropped plastic plant protectors for more eco-friendly options
  • Charity has made ‘crates’ from diseased trees or tubes of wool and cardboard

If you have plans to grow 20 million new trees by 2030, you need to protect the saplings.

But the plastic guards used to keep animals from stripping them barely fit the modern green agenda.

So the National Trust is expanding by experimenting with sustainable methods such as ‘crates’ made from diseased trees, protecting them with shrubs – or even using cardboard or wool tubes.

The charity wants to increase the forest cover on its land and reduce CO2 emissions to zero.

It collects and reuses plastic protectors, but the cost of having enough is becoming an issue.

In the South Downs, robust chests are made of sweet chestnuts from the surrounding countryside, each with as many as twenty saplings in the photo.

Cardboard and wool tubes have not proven to be profitable.

In the South Downs robust chests (photo) made of sweet chestnuts from the surrounding landscape, each containing up to 20 saplings, are depicted

John Deakin, the trust’s head of trees and forests, said, “We must investigate everything we can to minimize the environmental impact of what we are trying to achieve.”

He added: ‘We have made a huge commitment to plant or plant 20 million trees on our land over the next 10 years – and we have already made a great start.

However, we are aware of the possible unintended consequences of this and how you are protecting these trees. We are exploring all possible options to minimize this impact. ‘

By spreading the plantings across the landscape, pockets of saplings will grow and seed to create naturally connected forest over time.

At Coniston Hall, in the Lake District, about 4,000 saplings have been planted during winter in 46 crates made from untreated diseased larch wood, which is not considered a disease risk to the new trees, with another 3,000 planted ‘naked’ on Bleathwaite.

The crates contain between 25 and 120 trees surrounded by thorny shrubs.

At Ennerdale in the Lake District, about 20,000 native trees have been planted along the Liza River, combined with cuttings from coniferous trees to develop more mixed forest.

There has been a dramatic shift from plastic tree guards on the project, the trust said, and some trees have been planted in the felled coniferous trees to protect them from grazing.

At Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire and in Somerset, cardboard tubes have been tried with varying degrees of success as they biodegrade rapidly and leave saplings vulnerable to animal damage.