Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

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7 May 2008

Update on the ‘Totnes, the Nut Tree Capital of Britain’ Project

nuts I have written previously here at Transition Culture about the wonder of nut trees and on the project we have underway here to plant them in and around Totnes. Wendy Stayte and Teresa Anderson who have co-ordinated that project have written a very useful summary of the progress so far with transforming the town into ‘The Nut Tree Capital of Britain’. Their report appears below;

Nut tree planting in Totnes.

Plantations of modern nut varieties are much more productive than similar areas of arable crops. Wheat commonly produces between 2-10 tons/acre on good soils. On much poorer soils chestnuts have an annual yield of 7-11 tons, pecans 9-11 tons, hazelnuts,[most suitable for northern temperate climate] 9-12 tons, and walnuts 10-15 tons.’ [carbohydrate yields]

from Richard Mabey, ‘Fencing Paradise’.

This venture started in March 2007 with the planting of a few nut trees on Vire island. This planting was attended by the Mayoress, Prue Boswell, and supported by Alex Whish of South Hams district council, who had helped by providing the stakes and tree ties and overseeing us! About 6 of us, including Rob Hopkins, took part in this first event, planting almond trees and walnuts.

Sadly, within a week or two of the planting all the trees had had their main stems snapped. However, resilient as they are, all have survived and put out side shoots, and in spring 2008 as I write this, they are in leaf again and looking as if it will take more than a few vandals to put them down!

Choosing sites.

n3In May 2007 we held a day to gather people interested in supporting this project, both for some teaching, from Martin Crawford and Liz Turner, about tree planting; and to go out into Totnes and find sites for tree planting.

We started by gathering in Bogan house for the morning, about 12 of us, to discuss the project and share information. Two groups scoured the town for a couple of hours after lunch, and came back to mark sites on a map for the central part of town and Borough park and Bridgetown. We’d had fun imagining these groves of trees here and there, in more or less likely places. We had already been given a map of suggestions of likely planting places in Follaton and surrounding part of Totnes by Sky Chapman, who has been a keen supporter and financial sponsor throughout.

Involving the community.

Learning from our experience on Vire Island, we determined to be more active in trying to involve as many of the Totnes community as possible for further planting, especially those living near the sites where planting was being planned. To this end, three volunteers from the Msc. Students at Schumacher college joined us to plan the next planting events and the publicity needed. We also decided at this point that trees needed to have ‘tree guardians’ to watch over them, to repair damage if it occurred, to water and prune them if needed.

So the next planting was preceded by an intensive publicity campaign, in the local press, and through leafleting through people’s doors, to alert people to this project, and hopefully get more people involved as planters, tree guardians and sponsors.

Further planting.

We held another tree planting day on Dec. 1st.2007, planting on various sites down the so-called ‘chicken-run’ in Bridgetown which extends from Elmhirst playing field at the top, to the Pathfields playing field at the bottom, with two other intermediate sites.

n4About 24 trees were planted, with about 25 people helping during the day, despite inclement weather. We were supported this time not only by Alex Whish with stakes and tree protectors, but also Liz Turner of Trees for Health, who brought loads of tools. Frank Buddingh, experienced arborculturist from Schumacher, was also able to bring his expertise to the day. All the trees were in their new homes by lunch-time. A few children took part, and a blind young woman was one of the most enthusiastic participants. Several people living near the planting sites took part and have become tree guardians of trees near their homes. We planted sweet chestnuts, walnuts, hazel and pecan trees.

On Feb.12th 2008 we had another planting day, this time on Longmarsh, on one of the playing fields in Bridgetown, on Borough park playing fields and in Follaton gardens. As the sites were spread out we worked in two groups. We planted walnut and sweet chestnut trees on Longmarsh, and a few almonds on the Weston Lane playing fields. More almonds were planted by the playground in Borough park, and a mixture of trees in Follaton gardens.

We had even more volunteers on this day, 35 or so, including several children, and people who had come from surrounding towns and villages to lend a hand. We realised what enthusiasm there is for this project, how many people’s imaginations it is firing. During the planting at Bridgetown, we involved 3 boys playing nearby who undertook to be unofficial guardians of the trees. Good luck to them!. The trees at the edge of playing fields are most at the mercy of footballs and drunken revellers. We also had with us an extended family, of 4 generations, who brought with them a nut sapling they had grown from a walnut, and involved the youngest to the oldest in the planting.

One of the Bridgetown volunteers, Kevin Baumbach, followed up this day by planting 4 apple trees on the grass outside the street where he lives. This was done with the collaboration and blessing of Tor Homes garden manager, Rob Schofield, and the agreement of all his neighbours who will look out on the trees. Another volunteer hope to plant outside her house in Copland meadows, if agreement from Dartington estate can be secured.


During this first year’s planting, we have been given a grant from the Tree Council, from West Country Housing association, and from several individual donors. South Hams district council, via Alex Whish, has donated some tree stakes and protectors.

Forever Trees nursery, near Denbury, donated several trees, hazel, walnut and pecan, for our planting in Dec.2007.


We were very fortunate in this first year of planting to have with us Frank Buddingh, while he was doing his Msc at Schumacher college. He offered 2 training days for tree guardians, following the plantings in Dec. 2007 and Feb. 2008, in which he shared with us his love for trees and passion for caring for them well. He gave us useful information, inspired us, showed us pruning techniques [in the Dartington orchards], and gave us new eyes to look at the trees we already have around our town.

Wendy Stayte and Teresa Anderson; Co-ordinators of nut tree project.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Jane Buttigieg
7 May 7:42am

I love the idea of having guardians for the trees. I think it is important not only for the protection of the trees, but because local people will feel a connection with them. Must remember this when we do tree plantings in public spaces in Bristol.

Darren Woodiwiss
7 May 8:23am

Inspirational, we are trying to get “Structural planting” in new builds to be specified as ediable landscapes here in Harborough rather than low maintenance laurels and such not.

Harriet Stewart-Jones
7 May 12:56pm

So are there any nut trees that squirrels don’t like? Our walnut trees get stripped every year.

7 May 3:13pm

Try putting up an owl bird box (i.e. a big one) in your mature walnut trees. Owls eat squirrels.

7 May 10:52pm

Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust says that squirrels are not so keen on sweet chestnuts and heartnuts (a rather attractive smaller version of walnut)…

Steve Atkins
9 May 8:47am

Squirrel pie is already on the menu…

At the TT 2008 conference the subject of squirrels came up; I suggested that responsible adults could RESPONSIBLY supervise keen youngsters to shoot the cute little grey buggers out of the trees – and then reintroduce the red ones.

I have tried roast squirrel, a very gamey flavour. Yummy.
Surely we should be making more of this local food source? – and they don’t fart like cows.

‘Guardians for trees’ is a great idea.

x steve

Steve Atkins
10 May 7:47am

Just had a thought…

When stretched out a squirrel would fit quite nicely into the chimney of a rocket stove – so we could also cook them very efficiently.

patent pending ‘rocket stove squirrel adaptor’ coming soon hmmm…

x steve

14 May 12:12pm

Now I nearly posted up on the squirrel solution when I read Harriet’s post, but thought I would be shot down in flames for mistreating little furry things. Obviously, TTers are a bit more realistic than some of the urban folk I live amongst.