In May we were only granted 5.9mm of rain, compared to a mean for the month of 50mm over the past 40 years. The 18 trees we planted in March to help screen the A2 bridge were starting to struggle in the heat, not helped by a frost that damaged the delicate, unfurling birch leaves at a critical moment. Taller saplings can create a screening effect more quickly than tiny whips, but their bigger roots also suffer more trauma when transplanted.

The problem with these bigger trees is that their root system is out of balance with the portion that is above ground, meaning that even in a normal year they will struggle to pump up enough water to keep the tree healthy, an imbalance that is exacerbated in periods of drought. To help give the trees a better start, their main stems and branches were cut back to reduce the size of the canopy, but this was not enough to counter the impact of four hot and dry weeks.

All have survived, but each one is currently being coaxed back to full health with 30 litres of water a week, so it’s fortunate that the river is nearby. Despite not having yet put on material growth, the trees are already beginning to screen the bridge, and we must be doing something right as the trees’ chestnut stakes have burst into leaf!