Trees: Seeds of a protest begin at Newbury

It doesn't take a tree expert to plant a tree. Average people across the UK are planting acorns and conkers in pots and parklandss to do their bit to save the nation's forests. Caroline Allen reports.
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Indy Lifestyle Online
During the Newbury bypass protests last April, while protesters manned their treehouses, camps were being evicted, and people from all over the UK descended on Snellsmore Common, Bristol activist Mark Usher showed up at the common armed with little more than a rake and an idea.

Mark foraged beneath great oaks that lay in the path of the dual carriageway. By the end of the day, he had collected more than 200 germinating acorns.

Today, these siblings of the great Oaks from Snellsmore are being raised in gardens across the UK. Along with "Certificates of Authenticity" Mark sold each surviving seedling to the public for pounds 4.95. The package was endorsed by Friends of the Earth. Proceeds from the sales of the trees went to the Bristol Rainforest Reserve, with which Mark was affiliated.

Mark's intent was to carry the genetics of the Snellsmore Oaks into the next generation.

"It's important to maintain our heritage against fairly permanent damage, which," he added, "has questionable benefits."

Before the Newbury bypass, Snellsmore was an ancient woodland that had been undisturbed for thousands of years.

"The simple act of purchasing the seedling will help protect the genetic diversity of our native tree stock into the next millenium and beyond," the Certificate read.

Mark contends that the acorns from Snellsmore are a symbol of the growth of the new government and a token of the waning days of a policy by the former government that saw thousands of trees destroyed.

"There won't be another similar large-scale road development involving such controversy ever again," he said.

Andrew Wood was Newbury Friends of the Earth press officer at the height of the protests. There were people who were highly visible during the Newbury protests, he said, but average people, like Mark, also made a great impact on saving the common.

"The spontenaity and ideas were free flowing at Newbury. I think it is a good idea that so many people took initiative, and brought their own ideas to the situation.

"I like to think people grew a little, that they got something out of it, despite all the devastation," he said.

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