It was the Downside Tree Week from 28th March to 1st April and the School was buzzing with all things tree-related.

The main job of the week was to plant 1,000 saplings to continue our new hedgerow. The saplings, from the Woodland Trust, are all UK grown and sourced, and have been carefully chosen by the Trust for maximum benefit to wildlife and for year-round colour. They include oak, hazel, hawthorn, blackthorn, wild cherry, rowan, dogwood and silver birch. As well as the benefit to the Downside environment and wildlife, the trees will count towards the The Big Climate Fightback – the Woodland Trust’s tree-planting initiative to help combat the climate crisis.

Old Gregorians, families, local primary schools, and parishioners joined us to help us with our planting. There was something very special about coming together as a community for this activity and, as we planted, we chatted, shared gardening tales and dug up many a worm! There was a real sense of purpose and wellbeing in the air.

Throughout the week First to Third Forms experienced a range of themed lessons from using trigonometry to calculate the height of trees to learning the Latin names of trees. Artist-in-Residence Miss Doherty and pupils painted a wonderfully colourful tree mural in the Science corridor and Tutor time explored the Benedictine Value ‘Stewardship of Gifts’ and our relationship with the natural world. 

Mrs Ryder created an app for self-guided tree walks complete with a puzzle to solve and prizes to win and pupils and staff were invited to join the Manquehue to explore links to trees in the Bible and trees depicted in the stained glass windows in Downside Abbey Church. Mrs Ryder then took OGs, past parents, and parishioners on a guided walking tour of the many notable trees throughout the gardens of both the School and the Abbey. 

Possibly the highlight of the week was the whole School oak tree planting ceremony for the Queen’s Green Canopy. Click here to read more about the ceremony.

We are enormously grateful to the wider community for helping us with the new hedgerow and to Mrs Alcantara, Miss Essex and Mrs Ryder from the Science Department, who planned such a wonderful end-of-term, sustainable activity programme for us all to enjoy.

We would also like to thank all those who donated both their time and money to Tree Week to assist in the planting. We look forward to welcoming you back to Downside to visit your sapling as it grows.