National Trust volunteers branch out with Christmas trees

Longshaw Christmas trees: National Trust Ranger Mark Bull with colleagues Charlotte Hudson (left) and Chelsea Modest with some smaller Christmas trees behind a damaged dry stone wall
Longshaw Christmas trees: National Trust Ranger Mark Bull with colleagues Charlotte Hudson (left) and Chelsea Modest with some smaller Christmas trees behind a damaged dry stone wall

The Christmas tree sales at Longshaw have come a long way since the 1970s, when rangers would spend their December weekends selling surplus Scots Pines from a cold, leaking caravan.

Last year Mark Bull and his team of National Trust rangers and volunteers sold over 1,000 freshly-cut trees at Longshaw, with all profits going back to the countryside of the Peak District.

“People come here because they know that buying a tree from us will help conservation work,” said Mark. “It could help us repair a path so people with pushchairs and wheelchairs can get around easier, or mend a dry stone wall to keep the livestock off the roads, or plant some new trees in the local countryside. Buying a typical Christmas tree from Longshaw would allow us to plant six or seven new oak saplings, for example.”

Longshaw trees come straight from the estate or from other Peak District nurseries, with some also sourced from other sustainably managed UK growers to meet demand, said Mark. Customers can reserve a tree in Longshaw’s own tree nursery to be cut closer to Christmas, or choose from a range of Norway and Blue Spruce, Fraser Firs and ‘non-drop’ Nordmans to take away.

“Last year we had to help a woman lash a 12 foot tree on the top of her Range Rover,” said volunteer Chris Morgan. “It turned out she was taking it all the way home to Putney.”

Mark has got to know generations of families over the years. Children who used to come along with their grandparents are now bringing their own children, he said.

“It’s much more of a family day out coming here rather than the supermarket,” said Mark. “You can take Grandma and Grandad to the cafe, as we say ‘buy a tree, get a free cup of tea’, and you can take the kids on our Christmas trail to find reindeer sculptures hiding in the woods. This year we’ve even got a colouring competition where the best entry will win their own small Christmas tree.”

People are now thinking about where their tree comes from, as well as price, said Mark. Fellow ranger Chris Milner added that last year’s sales at Longshaw brought in enough funding to restore the walls and fences around the semi-ancient Oxhay Wood, near Padley, to keeps out stray livestock. The young trees can now thrive along with bluebells, woodpeckers and rare birds like redstarts and flycatchers.

“People tell us they like to put something back by buying a tree from us,” said Mark. “You could say your tree is not just for Christmas, it’s supporting your local countryside throughout the year.”

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