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British Government Racing to Stop English Oak Tree From Being Wiped Out

oak sapling

oak sapling

Have you got an oak tree in your garden? Or even just oak trees in your local area that you’re particularly fond of? Unfortunately they may not be around much longer if the mystery disease that’s currently affecting them across the UK isn’t dealt with before it tightens its deadly grip on all the oak trees around the country. Thankfully the British government is trying to do something about it, but is it already too late?

The British government is spending £1.1 million on an emergency project to save the spectacular English oak tree. The mysterious disease causes the trees to ‘bleed to death’, killing oaks within four years once it takes hold. It causes ‘dark weeping patches’, mostly on the stems of oak trees that are more than 50 years old, which is what gives the disease the appearance of causing ‘bleeding’.

So, the task that the government has is to try and stop the spread before it wipes out our heritage. They’re doing this by felling thousands of trees, stripping the bark and burning them in an effort to stop the spread. It’s unfortunate that so many trees have to be destroyed, but it’s the price we have to pay to make sure that the tree doesn’t go extinct.

Dr Jaems McDonald, from Bangor University, is doing DNA research to try and identify the bacteria, although one theory is that the oak jewel beetle is causing it.

“It is a very complicated issue. It could involve new bacteria that have been isolated from the lesions on the stems or the oak jewel beetle. We are looking at their involvement but both could be passive bystanders in the process. We don’t know.”

A big effort is being made to understand how the disease spreads, with the government conducting a large scale study of trees across Britain and taking samples from 200 woodlands. The latter is being carried out by the Forestry Commission and bioscience experts at Bangor and Cambridge Universities.

The head of the Forestry Commission’s Plant Health Service told the Daily Mail that “we are determined to do everything possible to protect our trees”. Let’s hope that it works, or the UK will suffer the loss of a magnificent tree that has become a staple of the British countryside.

UK Charity Soil Association is Working to Encourage a Healthy and Sustainable Planet

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the value of teaching children gardening skills, but it’s important that they learn about other aspects around that too. Children also need to learn about where their food comes from, how it can be done organically and protecting the environment around them so that the next generation can continue to help foster a sustainable future for our planet. We also believe that a lot of adults from learning these things too, not only because they can teach their children skills they themselves have learned but also because we need to begin creating a healthy and liveable planet today and not just in the future. This is why projects like the Stroud Valleys Project are so important, and there are many others, such as the Soil Association, working towards similar goals.

The Soil Association is the UK’s leading membership charity that campaigns for healthy, humane and sustainable food sources, farming and land use. They believe that healthy soil and healthy people is the key to creating a healthy planet for everyone; whether that is plant, animal or human life. It’s a big promoter of organic solutions to fostering a “durable and humane solution to the challenges facing us”. It does this by concentrating on three key areas;

  • Planning for the future: People should be able to live, eat, farm and grow from the resources that are available. More work is also needed on new solutions to tackle climate change, support biodiversity and improve animal welfare and fairness. They encourage organic farming; meaning no factory farming, no genetically modified crops and creating havens for wildlife.
  • ‘Good food’ should be available to all: People should have access to fresh organically grown, minimally processed and fairly traded food as a right. Its ‘Food For Life Partnership’ works in schools to help improve the life and health of children around the country, encouraging communities to build healthier food cultures by growing organic food wherever possible.
  • To enable and inspire change: The Soil Association also works with farmers and businesses to offer technical advice and provide the Soil Association Certification. This certification hopes to create and inspire consumer trust in the organic market, and by helping customers understand organic principles they will hopefully trust the product stamped with the certification logo.

The Soil Association continues to promote these three key principles through various campaigns and activities that run throughout the UK. They have recently received a £3.6 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund’s Well-Being Programme that is being put towards their ‘Food For Life Partnership’ to continue the charity’s work in schools.

They will also run Open Farm Sunday on 9 June, where you can visit farms near you to meet the farmers who grow your food and care for the countryside, which is excellent for all the family. These days have various activities, mostly for free, such as viewing newly hatched chickens, seeing animals being cared for (such as pigs rolling about in the mud), farm walks, tractor rides and more. Take a look here for all the farms that will be taking part in the day.

One campaign you can get behind is the ‘Not in my banger’ campaign. This is campaigning against industrial pig farming; they believe that pigs should be allowed outdoors to enjoy normal pig behaviour, mother pigs should be allowed to build a nest and no pigs should have their tails chopped off. You can take part in this by donating, or simply buying pork products that have labels like ‘outdoor bred’, ‘outdoor reared’ or ‘free range’.

Supporting charity’s and organisations like the Soil Association is key to making sure animal welfare remains a top priority, children and adults alike are encouraged to eat healthy food and people know how to maintain a sustainable environment and grow their own food. You can learn more about the Soil Association here, and it’s definitely worth getting clued up on the key principles.

The Doctor Who Maze

Whilst this is not strictly gardening related; it’s in the ball-park enough for us to give it a mention. If you’re a Doctor Who fan you’ll certainly appreciate it, assuming you haven’t had the opportunity to see it already…

We present to you a maze that has been shaped to form a Dalek and two of the Doctors who have been featured in the show, both past and present (William Hartnell and Matt Smith, to be precise).

You can get an idea of just how big the maze is by looking at the houses on the left of the picture and trust us when we say that they aren’t small houses by any means! The maze itself measures over 300m in length (roughly a 1000ft for those of you who aren’t great at converting) and has been carved into a maize field in the North Yorkshire area. More impressive is the fact that over 6 miles (10km) has been cut into the fields to form these pathways that magnificently depict the Doctor Who show so well. The time this must have taken to get right almost hurts to think about…

Obviously by now you’re wondering who’s done this and why? Well, we can tell you that an award winning company called YorkMaze Ltd are the ones responsible for this spectacle. In fact, they design a different maze every year and make it an annual event between July and September. As for why, well, it’s the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who this year and to mark the occasion the team at YorkMaze thought this would be rather appropriate. Colin Baker, the actor who played the part of Time Lord back in the 80’s was so impressed that he happily agreed to open the attraction on July 13th.

York Maze have previously created a Harry Potter themed maze too.

York Maze have previously created a Harry Potter themed maze too. || source :

As previously stated, the maze is only available until September (8 weeks from opening) because the field is full of maize and needs to be harvested before it dies. Then they rinse and repeat in preparation for the next year! You can even provide your own design ideas to them if you feel you’ve got something that would work well as a maze…

For more information on getting there, ticket prices and other attractions in the area, check out the YorkMaze website mentioned previously – everything you need to know for a great day out can be found by having a browse on there.

So, if you have a significant other or family member that is a massive Doctor Who fan, get in the car and have a journey up to North Yorkshire and treat them to a day that they will be hard pushed to forget. Mostly because of the blisters on their feet after trying to navigate a 6 mile maze, but don’t blame us for that! Just make sure you don’t pick a 30°C day to visit on as the maze takes over an 90 minutes to navigate and we don’t want to be responsible for adding to the number of sunburn pictures that are being posted on social media sites.

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