Enfield Council is embarking on a massive tree planting project designed to reduce water run-off, create new habitat for wildlife and improve access to green space, which will benefit everyone but particularly the North London community.

“We’ve had some really lovely days” Nik Cain tells me as we wait in the Botany Bay Farm car park for the last of the volunteers to arrive. “At around 3pm the sun is setting over that way and looks great.” Nik is a former IT Engineer who now works for the charity Thames21 who are partners in the tree planting project, “Which has to happen in the autumn/winter because if the weather is too dry the saplings won’t survive.”

Nik Cain a conservationist working for Thames21

And this is a typical autumn/winter day with a thick layer of low cloud creating a mist that clings to the higher ground, ensuring that the temperature doesn’t rise into double digits.

Yet despite the weather the volunteers arrive in a steady stream. Some come with friends but most are on their own, quickly chatting, making introductions and sharing their reasons for volunteering, which include everything from professional interest, to keeping active, to being supporters of the charity, to just wanting to give something back to the community in which they live.

The group spans generations and whilst I didn’t want to ask people their ages I would have said that age groups 20-70 years were represented.

After a quick demonstration of how to plant the trees, the banter stopped and everyone grabbed a spade. Within a few minutes the sound of quiet chuckling and some deep sighs drifted across the valley accompanied by a chorus of mutterings: “It’s not as easy as it looks is it.” “The ground is still quite hard.” “Oops, that’s not right.” “Which way up should this be?”

Everyone was very relieved to have successfully planted their first tree but a look across the stakes that were already positioned meant there would not be much time for idle chatter if they were going to get everything planted before the end of the day.

After a the first trees were planted, everyone got into their own rhythm and within a couple of hours the group had completed about a third of the field.

The area being planted on this day is on a slope running down to a stream. The trees were planted about quarter of the way up the slope leaving a gap between the planting and the existing vegetation along the stream. “The idea is that area in between will fill naturally as the existing vegetation is allowed to grows into the gap.” Known as rewilding.

Nik and the volunteers will be planting thousands more trees over the next few months.