Celebrating the wonder of East Anglia's trees

A picture of a large tree

Trees can play an important role in the battle against climate change, says Mike Glover of Barcham Trees - Credit: Contributed

Gina Long talks to Mike Glover from Barcham Trees about the problem of climate change and how planting the right trees can start to make a big difference for generations to come, helping our carbon footprint

Heating your home, driving to work, getting on a bus.

Every single day, our actions have an impact on our carbon footprint. 

But what if a simple purchase for a homeowner or business could go a long way to negating that footprint?

Welcome to Barcham Trees, a business that is so much more than simply selling some of the finest trees in the country to an enviable client list that includes the Royal Family.

Mike Glover, the managing director of the company, is on a mission to make a difference.

Concerned for our future, Mike wants to use his successful business to try and prevent a climate emergency.

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For more than 35 years, Barcham Trees has supplied more than 1.5 million instant impact trees to the UK landscape.

Across 300 acres, between Ely and Soham, the company has 225,000 trees in production every year, growing over 500 different varieties – over the last 12 months they have supplied trees that have the combined ability to store at least 260,000 tonnes of dry weight carbon.

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But business success is not enough for Mike and his dedicated team.

They want to use their years of expertise and experience to make a difference for generations to come.

Mike said: “If it wasn’t for the terrible Covid-19 pandemic we have all faced over the last 12 months, the focus would have undoubtedly been even more on climate change.

“Our species is racing towards very troubled times in terms of our changing environment. It’s now more important than ever to plant trees that lock up our carbon emissions.”

While not comparable to other countries, Mike believes the extreme weather endured by this country in recent years makes action even more crucial.

He explained: “We are getting summer storms with winds exceeding 50mph, periods of extreme drought, flash floods, and the new term ‘tropical days’, where the temperature exceeds 30 degrees Celsius. 

“It used to be unheard of to get 40 millimetres of rain in one go, but now it is the norm. And we get so many storms that we are putting names to them.

“Furthermore, our species are producing technologies that are destabilising our environment and shifting us into unchartered waters in terms of climate change.

“Every tree planted is making a contribution to redress the balance and if everyone in the UK planted about one a year, and looked after them to secure their establishment and wellbeing, we would have at least 750 million more in 10 years’ time. We need them and they need us.”

In a bid to help and highlight the growing problem, Barcham Trees has commissioned specific research by Treeconomics in Exeter to look at the hard data and devise an environmental rating system to give each tree a carbon score. 

A carbon calculator has also been added to their website which enables customers to work out their own carbon footprint and then see what trees offset their carbon usage.

Mike has also recently revised his popular book, Time for Trees, to help give people a greater understanding of species selection.

“Every tree planted is a credit to the environment,” Mike added. “During the process of photosynthesis, trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen and, in the process, store carbon to form the basis of their structures. 

“When I first started growing trees over 30 years ago, this always fascinated me as we are the opposite by consuming oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide as a by-product. 

“We are the first nursery to commission and publish data to work out how many trees need to be planted to offset carbon dioxide emissions.”

But it is not just a case of planting any trees to make a difference. 

The tree must be compatible with its surroundings, while trees of great age that grow to huge sizes are the ones that make the most impact.

Mike also revealed a recent emphasis on people buying huge trees that will have little or no environmental gain. 

He said: “It’s fair enough to buy a tree at semi mature sizes if they go on to live for at least two centuries, but what’s the point of buying semi mature Malus (Apple) or Prunus (Cherry) as these only live for about 70 years in the first place?

“In environmental terms, it is like starting to invest in a new Olympic athlete when they turn 40. A tree supplied at an age too old and too large to make an environmental contribution does not make sense.”

In a business now spanning five decades, Barcham Trees proudly hold two Royal Warrants, one for Her Majesty the Queen and one for His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. 

They are also accredited with the environmental standard ISO 14001 as well as having ‘Plant Healthy’ status for their strict biosecurity procedures.

Future plans include their own 18-acre arboretum in their grounds to showpiece the varieties grown, and ground work starts on this next month.

Mike said: “We always tell people that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

To find out more about Barcham Trees, visit www.barcham.co.uk. Mike’s book, Time for Trees, is available from the same website.

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