‘Cos you’re more beautiful than I have ever seen; I’m gonna take this night (before Christmas), and make it evergreen!’ (Spruced up Westlife quote)
Christmas trees: an evergreen, fragrant, festive affair. Traditionally, they’d be spruces, pines or firs, but these days, many of us go for an artificial tree.
Still, if you’re pining for the pines, those Christmas trees which brighten up our Decembers can be seen growing around our very own Norfolk.
Pine trees have been common to this region since the 1920’s. Wood was in short supply after the First World War, and to solve this problem the government planted a new woodland in the form of Thetford Forest. It quickly became home to a wide variety of wildlife, as well as being a beautiful place to escape for a couple of hours.
These days, Thetford Forest is worth a visit for the fresh smell of pine needles alone, but it is also known for its bike trails, bridleways, and Go Ape high-wire course (see here). And if that’s not a big enough draw, their ‘Forest Live’ outdoor concert series will be welcoming The Script this summer. That’ll distract you from the birdlife!
Over at Lynford Arboretum, something a little festive: grab a glimpse of a species dripping in Christmas spirit – the mature Norway Spruce, rarely seen in these parts.
(Norfolk Biodiversity doesn’t condone heading down there with an armful of tinsel; save that for the living room).
Alongside that, a wide variety of birds, spring flowers and autumn fungi keep the place looking ‘spruce’ even after the festive season’s been and gone.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree: while thy leaves might be unchanging, the range of wildlife inhabiting you certainly isn’t (Roots in a Traditional German Carol)
As everyone knows, it’s a pear tree you’ll need if you’re looking for a partridge. But Norfolk’s Christmas trees are home to a whole range of animals – some without songs written about them!
Thetford Forest, for one, shelters breeding colonies of a number of uncommon bird species, including crossbills and nightjars (click here to learn about the Breaking New Ground Project, which is conserving and opening up the Brecks and its wildlife, including Thetford Forest). Fascinatingly, the nightjar is known traditionally as a ‘goatsucker’, thanks to the long-held belief that they drink the milk from goats’ teats at night.
Maybe that glass of milk on Christmas Eve isn’t just for Santa?
And as for Rudolf’s carrot, herds of deer roam Thetford Forest (although so far, we haven’t spotted any red-nosed ones). These include populations of Red Deer and Roe Deer, as well as a thriving group of the South Asian Muntjac. These are descended from a captive herd brought over to Bedfordshire’s Woburn Abbey, from where they’ve spread rapidly. After all, speedy travel is easier when you’re not dragging a sleigh…
Last Christmas, I bought me a tree, but the very next week, I threw it away… (Sung to the Wham theme)
If you’re still looking for a tree this year, it’s worth taking a moment to consider where you plan on finding it. We all know how important it is to be ‘green’, and chopping down a real live tree feels so wrong – but is it really worse than the alternative option of manufacturing an artificial one?
Actually, a real tree might be the better option.
According to Oxfam, the average fake tree will last for only 5 Christmases’ before being thrown away, meaning another one needs creating, and another ends up in landfill, before the cycle goes round again.
There are alternatives: picking a real tree which has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council ensures that your tinsel is draped across sustainably-sourced branches, from stocks which are being replaced as fast as they’re felled. And once Christmas is done and you’re sick of hoovering needles from the carpet, make sure it’s recycled – it can be turned into woodchips, placed back in the ground, and go towards growing next year’s lot!
Or if you’re feeling really eco-friendly, what about a potted tree? Better even than recycling, this remains in its container, and can be put outside until next year. Besides brandishing your green credentials, it’ll add a hint of Christmas spirit to your patio all year round – perfect for those long January nights!
So here it is, Merry Christmas… (Slade-ly early)
From all of us here at Norfolk Biodiversity Blog, have a great Christmas – and give your tree an extra spritz of tinsel from us!