The Heart of Valpak Forest
On the first volunteering day of the year, Valpak colleagues embarked upon an adventure to plant a variety of trees with the Heart of England Forest at Spernal Hall Farm. Hannah Akhtar, International Account Manager, recounts her experience.
The overcast skies may have dampened our coats, but not our spirits!
On the first volunteering day of the year, Valpak colleagues embarked upon an adventure to plant a variety of trees with the Heart of England Forest at Spernal Hall Farm. Although the weather conditions were far from ideal, team morale consistently shined brightly. Ultimately, through our blood, sweat, and tears, an incredible 2,000 trees were planted!
A new experience for me
Having grown up in Qatar (2022 World Cup host) my exposure to greenery was mostly limited to screens, initially 2D and subsequently 3D when IMAX was launched. Despite this, the earthly smell of soil coupled with gentle birdsong and the persistent breeze was an experience I could only partially conceptualise. This is most probably due to the nature of the climate where (unlike the UK) soaring temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius raised no eyebrows. Hence, upon hearing about the opportunity to plant a forest, I signed up immediately.
A few things were different from my imagination. Rather than earthy, there was a damp smell, birds were somewhat shy and a persistent wind instead a breeze was very keen to make itself known. But all these components seemed minor as the sun had decided to kindly make an appearance. After unknowingly circling the farm thrice and an exciting debriefing, I found myself waddling towards the planting site along with eager colleagues.
We had the option to select from English and Sessile oak, birch, hazel, hornbeam, alder, rowan, and field maple trees. The trees were to be planted in groups of 5,7 and 13. In most cases, the shovel readily sank into the soil with little force. I was especially intrigued by the way in which the colour of the soil varied according to the placement on the land. A resplendent rainbow had even emerged as we were planting!
As we sat huddled together, eating our lunches in the barn that did little to shield us from the elements, we felt a sense of camaraderie.
It seemed all too good to be… and it was as if disaster struck after lunchtime.
As quickly as it had appeared, the sun abandoned, and the foreboding clouds grew darker. Within seconds, we were all drenched to the bone. But we had a mission to achieve, a forest to grow. Through consistent efforts, we were able to cover the entirety of the field and completed our goal half an hour early.
Beginnings of growth
Before rinsing our gloves under the stream dripping from the barn roof (Steve’s ingenious idea) I discussed with a colleague whether we would ever see the forest bloom. To which, she replied that perhaps in 20 years we would see the beginnings of growth, but that it would take thousands of years for the forest to flourish.
Large outcomes have humble beginnings
I have since ruminated on this thought. I believe that large outcomes, often have humble beginnings. I joked with another colleague that this experience felt like collective suffering. But really, it wasn’t suffering at all, more so persevering towards a greater goal.