Three Thousand Trees

East Cambs CAN, Eco Ely, XR Cambridge and Ely

Press Release: 30/11/2020                                                    3000 Trees for Cambridgeshire and beyond!

  Over the weekend, a campaign set up by local people to rescue 3000 oak saplings successfully distributed 4,000 tree saplings to over 60 landowners in Cambridgeshire to create dozens of new-start woodlands ranging in size from single saplings to 1,000 saplings planted over multiple acres. The sapling distribution was done in accordance with government guidelines about outdoor voluntary activities with limited numbers of people at any one time, hand sanitiser, social distancing and face coverings.

Earlier in the year, the campaign, 3000 trees, co-ordinated by East Cambs CAN, Eco Ely, Cambridge XR and Ely XR (Extinction Rebellion), crowd-funded over £2,000 to purchase 3,000 oak saplings that were due to be destroyed by a tree nursery in Wales, in part due to Government inaction over their National tree planting strategy and fears about how Covid-19 could adversely impact the forestry sector. One of the project organisers, Jethro Gauld, said “we wanted to do something to prevent such a massive waste of saplings and help create a post-covid good news story to benefit local people and wildlife. A huge thank you from the trees and us to all the generous donors of funds and land for planting!”. 

During the summer, the group ran a number of socially distanced tree guard recycling task days in the run up to planting season after obtaining permission to remove tree guards from a number of established planting schemes around the county. Not only does this reduce the amount of plastic in the environment, it also benefits the established trees. In total the group salvaged nearly 2,000 guards for the project this way, saving enough money to allow the group to purchase an additional 1,000 sapling mix of hawthorn, hazel, field maples and alder to supplement the 3,000 oaks. 4,000 saplings in total!

Another organiser, Kevin Hand, who for many years ran the government-backed National Tree Week, said “We hope this will highlight all the positive, creative work which XR and other local climate action groups do to combat climate heating and extinction of wildlife, locally and globally. The covid crisis can be viewed as yet another symptom of us humans interacting negatively with nature, with its origins appearing to be in the human consumption of bush meat and the over-exploitation of ecosystems. Sadly, unless we urgently change course, the ultimate effects of the climate crisis will be much worse than the current global pandemic”.

Apart from saving the saplings, part of the idea behind the project was to help people cement a re-connection with nature that so many experienced during the summer lockdown. The group also thought it would be a good way to offer people the opportunity to commemorate loved ones and pay tribute key workers who have helped us all through the ongoing pandemic. One recipient said that he intended to use some of the saplings to continue the legacy of his father in restoring ancient hedgerows on the family farm. In the coming weeks as photos and stories come in of the trees being planted, the group plan to create an interactive web map of the tree planting sites so people can see where all the saplings ended up. This will be publicised via the Ely XR Facebook page and via Twitter. Watch this space.


For anyone interested in tree planting and receiving some free oak saplings, a parallel National campaign (, headed by Cambridge filmmaker James Murray-White, run through Extinction Rebellion Rewilding (XRR) is planning to distribute 30,000 saplings to various community groups across England and Wales in the new year. These oak saplings will be distributed from five hubs across the country and the Cambridge hub is still looking for homes for approximately 2,000 saplings in the region. Saplings can be requested via a page on their website.


A few of the 4,000 saplings waiting to be counted out into bundles for different land owners.

Some of the larger bundles of saplings waiting for collection from near Soham on Saturday.

The Oaks.

Oak saplings being counted out and bagged into bundles.

Bundles of five saplings ready for collection. A small amount of peat-free compost was added to the bags to help keep the roots moist for transport.

Cambridge residents collecting their saplings on Sunday

For more details, images, interviews etc


Ely Extinction Rebellion:

Jethro Gauld:  

Kevin Hand:

James Murray White: