The Virtually Real Forest

Children naturally take care of things precious to them, a favorite teddy, a special pet, and so often a treasured stick ( I have yet to meet a child who does not wish to bring a stick home from a walk in a forest!) 

As adults it is easy to forget the connections we have with trees, the importance of those sticks we brought home as a child, it becomes too easy and cheap to chop  down that tree that’s seen to be in the way. The value of the tree gets forgotten. 

Tree planting exercises with children are run every year. There are many really good schemes to get children to help plant trees, and thankfully we continue to see those initiatives increase. If you have taken part or run one of these projects you will know we either see hopeful little hands pop an acorn in a pot and stare with expectancy to get it to grow, or dig a hole for a sapling’s roots in the middle of a field far away from the child’s home. 

But then what happens? 

How does that child connect with that tree, how does it know the journey the tree takes? How will the child watch the tree grow with them, how will the child help look after the tree in the long term? And let’s face it, children really love looking after precious things. 

Thinking about the experiences we have witnessed in our lives, what happens next we believe is a vital step in how children and the adults they grow into interact with trees and our biosphere in the long term.  Teaching the value of trees to the individual can only truly be achieved if we can create deep connections with trees. How do we do that if the trees that are planted the child never gets to see again?

David Green, part of the New Forest Aquaponics CIC core team, planted trees as part of the ‘plant a tree in ‘73, plant one more in ‘74 ‘ tree planting campaign.  One of the trees he planted was in his parents back garden. A silver birch that grew  big and strong.  All through his childhood he could see and connect with that tree everyday, he had other trees that he had planted around the same time, but they were all in pots, just the silver birch was in the ground. 

When he moved out to start his adult life, David took the trees in pots with him, but the Silver birch had to stay. It didn’t take long for his dad, not known for being a fan of anything alive and green, to chop it down, ending that tree’s life. 

The trees in pots are all still safe and growing, doing what trees do best, helping us breathe. 

It is this experience and the desire to help create deeper connections with trees, that lead us  to get children looking after trees at home. From this the Virtually Real Forest was born. It is a forest of trees grown in pots. Each tree will be registered on our database, so the tree can be tracked as an individual tree, information on the life of that tree can be recorded.  Once the guardian of the tree is able to put down roots themselves at a permanent home, the tree can be planted in the ground. 

The trees will be given to people via workshops on trees, starting with oak seedlings, at a workshop all about wonderful oak trees. Then as we grow more species we will have workshops on trees in general, or tailored to individual species. 

The database will show which areas the trees are growing,  and how well they are doing, and where they eventually end up. 

New Forest Aquaponics CIC hopes to gain funding to provide larger pots, and bioactive compost as the trees grow, so there will be no financial restraints on the tree being cared for.  If the tree can no longer be kept and there is nowhere to plant the tree, it will always be welcome to come back to our care. 

Workshops will be provided by the amazing team at Blackwell Bushcraft CIC, starting in Hampshire, please get in touch if your group would like to be involved via the contact button on New Forest Aquaponics .

If you have a trees and would like to add it too the forest, please let us know you wish to take part, fill in the form so we know about your tree and we will allocate you a registration number. Register your tree