If you asked people living in Epsom which event they thought could attract around 300 volunteers in just one day, most probably wouldn’t say tree planting. Yet the planting event at the Langley Vale Centenary Wood certainly seems to have been popular.

The new wood in Langley Vale, Epsom, is the first of the Woodland Trust’s Centenary Woods in honour of all those involved in the First World War. They are planning to create four, one for each nation of the UK, as a ‘poignant and meaningful memorial’. The Centenary Woods will also contribute to the Woodland Trust’s target of planting 64 million new trees by 2025 to compensate for having lost over half of the UK’s woodland in the last 70 years. That’s one new tree for every man, woman and child in the UK.

On the 21st January 2017, about 300 volunteers came to the wood to plant hazel and oak saplings, managing to cover a good proportion of the field despite much of the ground still being covered in frost. Each tree is covered by a plastic spiral with a pole in the ground beside it, the pole to keep it upright and the spiral to prevent animal life from feasting on the wood before the saplings have had a chance to become trees. Participating in the project allows both locals and visitors to engage in the community as well as making an investment for the area’s future and honouring all those involved in the First World War.

One participant told me she thought the event was important because ‘it’s a memorial that will live on after we are gone’. HRH Princess Anne, project patron, told the Woodland Trust that she thinks the Centenary Woods are important because ‘across communities in Britain, stone memorials fade into the backdrop of our busy lives…there is a need to ensure the stories and memories of our Great War heroes live on in future generations. The humble tree is a perfect tribute to their honour – the symbol of life itself’.

So keep an eye out for the Woodland Trust’s future planting events, especially for their Centenary Woods – the perfect way to be a part of a community, revive the UK’s woodland and pay tribute to everyone affected by the Great War.

By Samantha Perren, Rosebery School