A couple of weeks ago, we told you about our involvement with WeForest, who have planted over 7.5 million trees in 11 countries to date, making an incredibly important contribution to protecting the planet, biodiversity and human health.  We know from personal experience that there are few things that foster a stronger connection with nature than planting tree saplings and watching them grow, so in the hope of inspiring a spirit of reforestation in our fantastic community of tree fans, we're sharing a tree planting story with you today.

On an August day in Kenya, suspended in the kind of heat that makes air feel like water, we stood next to the forest on a patch of naked green and contemplated the piles of soil at our feet.  They sat crumbling, red-brown and defiantly cold against the day, and waited for us to get to work.  We were in Kakamega, where rainforest that once marched confidently across the country now hangs on, holding its beautiful collection of animals and their echoing noises just out of reach of the world.  The sun climbed the sky and people trickled towards us, a tide of bright fabric and shining spades, watering cans and mud-caked boots.  The forest needed help, and they were here to give it.

We worked standing up at first, carefully rearranging the earth as the spades struggled to escape our sweaty hands.  Then, as our t-shirts stuck to our backs and the water in our bottles turned warm and made us thirstier, we sank to our knees in the tough, thorny grass and dug in with our hands.  We peeled the trees from their cylinders of plastic sacking and looked at their startling roots, a thin web of white through the compacted soil.  As a universe of worms and centipedes broke free beneath our hands, we tucked the tiny trees into the ground and smoothed the earth around them, patting and moulding until they stood solid, a rainforest in training.  Standing again, we wiped dirty hands on dusty trousers and stretched our backs as we shuffled on, picking around planted patches in search of crumbling red.  

The bare earth got swallowed up and the rows of expectant saplings diminished as we spread them across the hillside, down to the river and back up again, working faster and harder as our hands figured out a rhythm and careful small talk became laughter and song.  There were a thousand trees planted that day, a lot but not a lot, an important drop in an ever-growing ocean.  As we trailed away, we left the sun behind us for the cool of the forest, wishing the new trees well as we walked through the shade of the old.  Somewhere in the distance, colobus monkeys croaked, and the canopy rustled sharply above us as birds moved through the trees.  This is what the day was for, and the stiffness in our backs became nothing as the forest painted its own importance all around us and lodged a care for it in our chests.  We glanced over our shoulders for one last look at the tiny trees, and willed them all to grow.


Lucy Radford