Illuminet Treevolution Update!

Illuminet has always prided itself as being a passionately eco-friendly organisation, including through its partnership with Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT), planting a tree per week for every consultant and creating fun-filled days to make a difference.

For 2022, a number of Illuminet’s team went up to Yorkshire Dales again, to learn and plant some trees. This year, the team consisted of Joss Bond, Darren Trussell, Luke Broadhurst, and Harry Gordon. This is how it went…  

This year, we got a fantastic opportunity to join YDMT on an adventure to plant some native broadleaf trees! Despite having storms Dudley and Eunice postpone the tree planting to the week after, we were actually very lucky as the sun was out and the strong winds helped us cool down
from the hard work of planting the trees.

On the 22nd of February, we all had set out to the Horse Pasture Farm Woodland, with the aim to plant a total of 150 saplings, including holly, birch, guelder-rose, and crab apple, all aged between 2/3 years old. 

While planting some trees, we went to find out more about YDMT and their tree planting projects.  We interviewed Sarah Hodgson, the Charity’s Development Officer. 

  • How many trees are YDMT planting this year?

“This season, we have planted more than 20 woodlands. We typically plant the trees during the Winter season, between the months of November and March, as this gives the young trees a chance to focus their efforts on growing strong roots, before the Spring and Summer months. In total for this season, we have forecasted up to 27,000 have been planted.”

  • Who does the YDMT team consist of?

“We often use contractors; however, this year we have had a lot of volunteers and business supporters getting involved. Whether that be through donations or the actual tree planting activities. In fact, we estimate up to 10,000 of this winter’s trees have been planted by volunteers. We have had a really busy volunteer season!”

  • How do you decide where to plant the trees?

“We work alongside landowners and farmers who will come forward between April and July to put forward their tree planting proposals. Our Woodlands committee then consider the best options, based on a variety of factors”

  • Is there a specific strategy when it comes to planting trees?

“Yes, so we like to plant the trees in a natural way, so we try to avoid planting the trees in a straight line, as they would naturally grow in a sporadic way. Trees do talk to each other – so we plant a bunch of at least five of the same species together. We plant the trees at least a metre apart because as they grow, they will be competing for resources. When planting the trees, we always expect to lose some, based on a number of factors including the altitude and weather at a site, whether the trees were planted too close together or didn’t have enough resources to grow.”

  • Is there a reason for the names behind the woodlands? If so, why?

“The woodland owners themselves name their woodlands. Some might take names from their farms or homes; others might name a woodland in memory of someone. One of our woodland owners named their woodland from an old name they saw on their local OS map.”

  • What is the process of looking after the trees once they have been planted?

“How this happens and what works in includes depends on what the landowner wants. In the first few years when the trees are young, there is usually some weeding of the grass either by volunteers or local contractors. The grass on some sites can overpower the young trees and compete with them for resources. We may also need to straighten trees if they have been badly affected by wind or storms. In later years, we may need to remove the tree guards (after 5-10 years, depending on the site). Once the woodland becomes more established, the trees may need thinning out. Whilst the responsibility of this management work lies with the landowner, we try to offer volunteer help where possible – particularly in the first few years.”

  • Over the whole of YDMT how many woodlands do you have/ have planted at?

“We have supported the planting of more than 1.5 million trees. Some of our supporter woodlands can be seen here: 

Our supporter woodlands are where people can dedicate trees in memory or celebration of a loved one, and often have a public footpath running through them, giving people the opportunity to see the woodlands they have helped to create.”

  • Is there a limit to planting trees in terms of capacity?

“Available land. We need to engage landowners, communities, and farmers with the need to plant trees to help tackle the climate emergency. We are also aware of the need to plant the right tree in the right place so as not to create new challenges such as planting trees on a peat bog, wildflower meadows, or affecting wetland habitat for wading birds.”

  • Do you feel that climate change and global warming have affected the way you plant the trees?

“We have been creating woodlands for more than 20 years, working with local landowners and partners to support the planting of more than 1.5 million trees. It’s something that has always been a core focus of our work and it will continue to be for years to come. Due to the increased urgency to support tree planting, we have been working in more creative ways to help get trees in the ground. For example, by inspiring communities through training and the creation of community woodlands, we know that we are inspiring people to care about ecological networks in the long term. We are also working with landowners to create vital small woodlands and hedgerows targeting an area that will help to reduce flooding or creative wildlife corridors. We will give six young people the chance to become Woodland trainees.”

  • For any tree enthusiasts out there, what would your advice be for those who want to grow/plant a tree at home?

“Contact your local environmental group for advice or pop down to your local garden centre. You can even collect acorns from your local woodlands, and plant these up in your gardens. If you cannot do that then get in touch and dedicate a tree with us –

YDMT currently has a project called ‘Plastic Free Woodlands’ which aims to reduce the use of plastic in woodland creation. Currently, many trees are planted using a plastic tree guard which protects the young saplings from animals such as rabbits, voles, and deer as they grow. These guards should be removed when they are ‘redundant’ but sadly they aren’t – littering our countryside and causing environmental issues, especially if they get into water courses. Part of the project is trialling different materials in the tree guards. YDMT have planted 8,665 trees with six different types of trial guards since the project began, whilst almost 200 volunteers have helped to collect 38,000 tree guards for recycling.

Alongside their woodland creation work and Plastic Free Woodlands Project, YDMT also runs a variety of projects to support the people, landscape and wildlife of the Yorkshire Dales and surrounding areas. They deliver diverse and inspirational projects including countryside apprenticeships, education and outreach, restoring woodlands and wildlife habitats and conserving heritage. They work hard to look after the spectacular and precious landscapes, whilst giving disadvantaged and young people from some of the most deprived communities in the country the chance to learn new skills and to enjoy and understand this special place. 

The charity is uniquely placed to support a wide range of people to emerge positively from the COVID-19 crisis and create a greener future. If anyone would be interested in supporting YDMT’s work, please just get in touch.

We just want to say a big thank you to YDMT for taking the time to educate us on the process of tree planting and the exciting new projects they have coming up! Also thank you to the Illuminet team who came up to do the tree-planting!  And thank you to Illuminet for giving us this opportunity! 


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