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Trees: Students plant acorns at medieval deer park

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.
In the 14th century, the Bishop of Winchester hunted herds of fallow deer on his 320-acre woodland in Farnham, in Surrey. Royalty would often visit the bishop at Farnham Castle, a halfway point between London and the Bishop's main castle in Winchester. Royals spending countless hours roaming the surrounding woodland.

Although all of the deer have disappeared from the area, Farnham Park is today one of the last remaining medieval deer parks in the country.

Farnham Park's rich history is what teacher Trevor Bass hopes to impart to his students as he leads them through a tree planting process that involves acorns from Farnham's oldest oaks.

The students, from Farnham's Heath End School, a stone's throw from the park, are collecting the acorns from three or four of the park's most ancient trees as part of their environmental studies class, and in conjunction with a national programme sponsored by Trees of Time and Place.

The acorns are grown in a special "vandal-free" courtyard at the school. The plan is to replant them at the millennium in the park.

"It's different from going to a nursery. I want to give them a feeling of the place. I want them to have a feeling of ancient history and local history," explains Bass, whose students have won awards in the past for their environmental projects.

The replanting is a necessary regeneration in a park that has seen significant destruction of its trees over the past few decades. In the 1950s, for reasons unknown, many of the mature oaks were cut down. Dutch elm disease took its toll.

And in the Great Storm of 1987, old beech trees on a ridge took the full brunt of the winds. Most were damaged; many were destroyed. The devastation caused by the storm throughout the park is still apparent 10 years on, says park ranger Ron Hills. And recently, young vandals have been spilling over from the town of Farnham and breaking off saplings.

"We suffer enormous vandalism, Hills says.

Bass says that he hopes the tree replanting will teach his students the sort of responsibility and awareness that will deter such vandalism.