Cutting your own Christmas tree from Surrey woodland?
PUBLISHED: 19:08 14 December 2015 | UPDATED: 19:23 14 December 2015
What could be better than heading into the woodlands to claim your own Christmas tree? Well, now you can do exactly that with the National Trust in Surrey. Here, local resident (and dedicated Christmas devotee) Catriona Grey reports on a memorable day
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2015
Our family is really fond of Christmas traditions – my youngest daughter and I make a gingerbread house every year and we always decorate our Christmas tree together as a family as it gets dark and you can see its lights reflecting in the window glass.
So, as you can imagine, we were very excited to learn last year that our local National Trust place, Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl, was inviting visitors to come along and chop down their own Christmas tree. Long-known as ‘Little Switzerland’ because of its pine-clad hilltops, majestic landscape and fresh air, the prospect of all this was just too much for my husband Adrian who, overnight, developed lumberjack tendencies and spent a goodly hour sharpening his saw in preparation for the event. New stout gloves were also purchased – especially for the occasion – and worn with great pride.
The day dawns
The morning of the great harvest dawned and it was a glorious one – cold and bright and crisp; perfect lumber-jacking weather. Adrian (new gloves and sharpened saw at the ready) was up and about, woollen jumper worn with old but clean faded jeans. I don’t know who was more excited – he or our children James (13), Amelia (10) and Abigail (8).
Deciding that it would be best to secure our tree to the roof of the car, rope was recovered from the garage and then we were off. We arrived early, as had many other excited families so we decided to head to the café for a warming hot chocolate for the kids and coffee for us. By 10 o’clock, we were on Hindhead Common and eager to get going. Following a lovely welcome from Matt, the ranger who looks after the common, he explained to us that the trees that we were about to cut, Scots pine, were in fact invasive and in great numbers are potentially harmful to the long-term health of the site. It was great to know that what we were doing was helping the habitat and wildlife of this stunning area, with a beautiful hand-picked tree into the bargain.
Into the woods
As we headed onto the common, Adrian and James lead the way, the girls excitedly chatting behind and looking around for the perfect specimen. We didn’t have to go far until the children found The Tree and pronounced it perfect. At over 7ft tall, my concerns that a) it wouldn’t fit on the roof of the car and b) into the house at all were cast aside. The freshly-sharpened saw did us proud and in a few minutes we were the delighted owners of what must have been the freshest and sweetest-smelling Christmas tree around.
Less keen to drag the tree back (and muttering to myself along the way about being right about its size), Adrian and I pulled the tree over the common back to the rangers. The children, captivated by the wide, sweeping views and the buzz of the event, were in their element, galloping over the heathers and admiring the myriad of dogs that had come along with their owners, as ever part of the family.
Meeting Matt and his team of volunteers close to the car park, they expertly netted the tree for us. Our donation of £20 was warmly accepted and we took the now much more manageable tree back to the car. Hoisting it on the roof was surprisingly easy. And all before 11am.
As it was such a beautiful day, we decided to head over to the shepherd’s hut there to chat to the staff and find out what else we could do. Picking up a bag of warming roast-chestnuts along the way, we decided to walk along part of the route of the old A3 road. Once cut into two parts by this major trunk road, Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl are now reunited due to the opening of the A3 tunnel. This is great news for wildlife: birds, animals, insects and butterflies can now cross between the two seamlessly, helping them find new nesting and feeding sites. The Christmas tree harvesting is part of the piece of work to reconnect the two halves and to make the site more favourable for wildlife. Already, we read of the spread of the rare nightjar bird from one site to the other, as well as lizards.
Suitably full of fresh air, and keen to get back to admire our tree, we decided it was time to head home. I won’t mention getting the tree into the house; needless to say, I did feel that I was right about its size. I admit, though, that it did look beautiful and drew admiring comments from our friends and neighbours who were in awe of the story we had to tell about it. We’ll definitely be back this year and I feel that harvesting our own tree will become very much a family Christmas tradition.
Need to know:
Visitors to Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl, London Road, Hindhead GU26 6AB can harvest their own Christmas tree on Saturday December 5, 12 and 19 from 10am until 2pm (no booking required). The National Trust asks for a minimum donation of £15 per tree, which goes directly back to the care and conservation of the site. Just bring along your own saw and pair of gloves. This year, the NT at Hindhead Commons and the Devil’s Punch Bowl is celebrating Christmas in a truly Swiss style, with seasonal food, children’s trails and more, so why not make a day of it? For full details, see online at nationaltrust.org.uk