Volunteering with the Forest of Avon Trust

Duncan McKean

A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit – Greek Proverb

Volunteering days are a powerful tool for companies to engage with their communities, foster a positive corporate culture, and make a meaningful impact beyond the confines of the office. 

As an employee of vvast, recognising and utilising volunteering days is not just a perk but a strategic investment in social responsibility, employee satisfaction, and the overall well-being of the company. It’s part of our journey to being a B-Corp.

My volunteering day was with the Forest of Avon Trust which plants trees across Bristol, BANES, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Their funding is sourced through Trees for Climate, a Defra backed grant being delivered through England’s Community Forests, tailored to the tree planting needs of communities and landowners across urban and rural areas.

What this actually involved was me receiving an email early one damp and overcast winter morning. The email had coordinates pointing at somewhere in deepest, darkest Somerset where I met up with two other volunteers and a couple of members of the Trust who were there to organise us. 

We were there to build an orchard on one half of a field. The Trust were building a wood on the other half of the field in a couple of days and that would be much more of a production line process, but today’s task involved the more fiddly planting of larger trees and shoring them up against the inquisitiveness of local beasties. 

We dug holes out of the clay, planted a few rows of apple, pear and cherry trees and then mulched the roots. We also planted almond, peach and apricot trees as well, which was a surprise to me, but apparently they do well if protected.

We then had to wrap the trunk in protective material to stop the rats and gnawers from eating the trees, and then hammer in posts on either side of the tree and wrap the tree in metal mesh fencing to protect the saplings from the deer.

Luckily, the weather held off for the day and at the end of it we had an orchard of rather wintery-looking saplings that would grow into a full orchard in about 5 years.

What’s nice about this project–and why I chose it–was the fact that you’re making a direct impact on the world around you. Even my small act of environmental stewardship contributes to a larger tapestry that can sow the seeds of positive change for future generations.

Plus, in about 5 years, I can go back to that field and say “I did that!” and feel proud that I did.