To mark the coronation of His Majesty the King Charles III, on Tuesday 16th May 2023 the King’s official representative in East Sussex planted an oak tree at Bodiam station on the Kent & East Sussex Railway (K&ESR).
Deputy Lieutenant Major General John Moore-Bick CBE DL (second from the right in the photo) undertook the ceremonial tree planting in the presence of the Chairman of the K&ESR, Simon Marsh (third from left), General Manager Dr Robin Coombes (far left) and invited guests.
The tree is a feathered oak, supplied by Coppice Wood and forestry team member Paul Davies (to left of oak tree).
This oak tree planting is by no means an isolated ecological initiative for K&ESR. In the last two years, the railway’s forestry and environment team, members of which were also present for the ceremony, have planted some 3,000 trees on railway land. There are plans in place for many more trees, as well as wildflower meadows to encourage pollinators, and for improvements to wetlands with the overall aim of creating a sustainable nature corridor.
The arrival of the oak in fact coincides with the start of a major ecological survey which has been commissioned by the K&ESR for the full 10.5-mile route, in collaboration with Tenterden Wildlife, following a successful bid for funding to environmental, heritage and community charity the Janus Foundation.
The survey, which is being undertaken by the Kent Wildlife Trust Consultancy and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, is focused primarily on birds, habitat and bumble bees, although all species are being recorded. Early results have revealed as many as 77 bird species; 10 of these are on the British Trust for Ornithology’s Red and Amber lists for highest conservation concern, and a least one rare bee has been recorded.
K&ESR Chairman Simon Marsh said: “We hope that this King’s oak will not only represent a long-lasting memory of this historic event of our times but will also be a symbol of the positive contribution we wish to make to the environment in which we operate.
“We are very conscious of our responsibilities as they relate to environmental sustainability and are constantly seeking ways to contribute to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, including caring for the natural habitats that exist for wildlife along the line.”
Chair of Tenterden Wildlife Richard Masefield (second from left in main photo), who was a guest at the ceremony, said: “With such encouraging evidence (from the survey), Tenterden Wildlife are hoping that adjoining landowners in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and in the Rother Valley will also benefit from Government grants, in effect to ‘widen’ this already important wildlife corridor, with the addition of enhanced wildflower meadows, planted woodland and managed wetland on their own land. A very exciting prospect!”
The K&ESR is currently responsible for an estimated 95-100 hectares of land, mostly linear beside its tracks. As the saying goes: ‘from little acorns mighty oaks do grow’, and the K&ESR is hoping that its increased focus on wildlife habitats on either side of its tracks and around its stations will grow a new army of visitors and supporters, keen to appreciate the natural world as well as its heritage trains.