Planting a Legacy
Many of us are familiar with the words of William Henry Davies:
"What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep and cows."
Standing, sitting or lying beneath a tree, I would argue, is one of life's simple pleasures and is the reason I was saddened to hear that one of the great trees on the school's estate has come to the end of its life and needed to be removed for health and safety reasons.
The tree in question is sited at the front of the school, just to the west of the main entrance and was planted at the same time as the one located at the opposite end of RHS, within the grounds of Holbrook House. They were both planted to mark the retirement of Norman York in 1974.
It is a cedar, Cedrus Atlantica or Blue Atlas cedar, and is native to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The tree provides a distinct contrast to some of the indigenous trees that typify the school's estate and its foliage is almost a silvery blue in colour. But it is its shape, particularly in silhouette to the setting sun, that I will miss.
But as one tree reaches the end of its life, this term we are embarking on an ambitious new planting project. We intend to plant a sapling for every child that joined us this September and, over the course of the next seven years, we shall plant 1500 trees on our site, providing a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy. Trees, like our pupils, need the right conditions to grow and flourish and we hope that this symbolic gesture provides them with a reminder of their ongoing connection to RHS.
The school sits within an important environmental and physical landscape. The grounds border the Stour and Orwell estuaries Special Landscape Area, which is designated as a Special Protected Area (SPA), under the European Birds Directive (79/409/EEC 1979) a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Ramsar site (for wetland habitats). It forms an important component of the Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB. Many of us do not need to understand the respective acronyms and designations to recognise that the RHS site is special; one to be nurtured.
I recently mentioned Howard Gardner who initially defined eight human intelligences, latterly he added a ninth, naturalist intelligence. This is a particular intelligence that involves how sensitive an individual is to nature and the world and is sometimes referred to as aesthetic intelligence. As a school, developing this 'particular intelligence' has never seemed more pertinent and perhaps the least challenging, given this generation's appetite to make a difference and find the solutions to the legacy of global warming, ecosystem destruction and resulting species extinction. Our hope is that we are cultivating both an appreciation of our natural environment as well as creating a sense of responsibility for our ecosystems.
It is why this term, we have made small steps by removing plastic water bottles, why we have introduced 'meat-free' Mondays, why we have replaced all our residential lighting with LEDs and why now we have embarked on a programme of planting. All small steps but, as our Eco committee stress, it is our collective responsibility and through small but collective individual actions, we can make a difference.
The Committee on Climate Change's (CCC) report published in May 2019 outlined the stark increase in woodland expansion needed to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and it was suggested that the UK needs to plant 50 million new trees per year to hit net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Our small effort is a demonstration of our commitment to our site but also to future generations of RHS pupils. Our hope is that in years to come the current pupils will, as they move on from the school, come back and see how the trees we planted to recognise their arrival have also grown.