Christmas Woodland Memories

By Wilf Wilson
(Originally Published December 1998)

Scot's Pine
Scot's Pine

Budging Hook
Budging Hook

Saw
Saw

Walking through Storeton Woods the other day, brought back many recollections of when I was a child; especially as Christmas draws near once again.
The part of the wood between The Traveller's Rest and the former Cheshire's garage was planted up with hundreds of Christmas trees by the Leverhulme estate men during the late nineteen-thirties. The two main foresters who worked there were a Mr George Cornes and a Mr Alf Duckers; and during school holidays I spent hours in the woods with these two men.

No power saws those days; the large trees were felled with long Crosscut saws which required sharpening every four hours with a long medium file. The saw would be placed and secured down on a gadget called "The Wooden Horse", which basically was a wide piece of timber with four legs, about 3'6" high.
Once the young trees were planted the foresters would keep the grass away from the main stems by cutting back with what they called a "Budging Hook" or sickle. They would have a long forked stick in one hand for lifting the grass and the hook in the other. Artificial trees may look realistic but there is nothing to match the look and scent of a real forest grown tree.

Do all readers of NEWSLEAF realise that the Christmas tree tradition is a comparatively recent import to Britain, arriving in 1844 thanks to Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria, who brought the idea to this country from his native Germany.

There are mainly four species of Christmas trees grown, The Norway Spruce which is the traditional tree, mid-green and shaped like a cone; The Scot's Pine, which incidentally is our only native pine, has soft needles and the foliage has a blue/green tint. It is now very popular and retains its needles well; the third type being the Lodgepole Pine which is more bushy, less prickly and has a more greeny-yellow tinged foliage and also retains its needles well. This tree originates from North America where the strong, light trunks were at one time the "lodgepoles" of the Red Indian wig-warns.

Finally, Noble Fir has distinctive broad green needles with a silvery underside. It has an unusual citrus scent, but takes longer to grow than the other types, and is consequently dearer. Most of the Garden Centres who sell these trees now use a special machine for "netting the tree", which makes for easier handling to take home. A little girl was overheard to say to say to her mummy "0 look, the tree is wearing a hairnet"

As a concluding item: if you are planting a cut-off tree in a container, re-cut at least an inch from the bottom to enable it to draw up water. Never plant Christmas trees in sand or garden soil because this will choke the pores of the tree. Plant them in peat or good oak leafmould. Keep the tree/s in the coolest part of the room, certainly away from radiators or fires.