December 6 2013 Latest news:
Dominic Bareham, senior reporter
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
With the Christmas tree buying season well and truly up and running, a north Suffolk estate which has been producing them since the 1970s is enjoying increasing sales and has become a major supplier for towns and cities across the country.
The Elveden Estate, on the Norfolk-Suffolk border, is hoping to sell 5,000 real Christmas trees over the festive period to families this year – and 900 trees from the estate will also be adorning major city and town centres as the estate also supplies trees to more than 200 local authorities for their displays, including in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Liverpool and Nottingham.
A tree from the estate is decorating Ely Cathedral while other towns including Cambridge, March, Whittlesey, Botesdale, Swaffham, Sudbury and Great Yarmouth have also bought trees from the estate for their displays.
As Paul Dickinson, from the estate’s forestry and conservation department, explained, a lot of work goes into ensuring the best trees are produced to sell to the customer.
A 22-strong team from the estate is responsible for growing the trees, which take up 100 hectares, and the team visits the trees on a daily basis after planting them as saplings to ensure they are receiving sufficient nutrients and that they are being watered properly. The trees are then sheared into shape by the team using very long pruning knives to prepare them to be sold to the customer.
Mr Dickinson said future stocks were already being prepared as the estate already had enough saplings waiting in the shed to maintain stocks until 2020.
The trees come in a range of sizes, including 4ft, 6ft and 8ft up to the 35ft high evergreen conifers which can be seen outside town halls or in town centres across the country and they are typically planted every two or three years, depending on sales.
Mr Dickinson said although there were a number of Christmas tree producers around East Anglia and real trees could be bought from DIY stores and garden centres, the estate aimed to make buying the tree a more pleasurable experience for customers by proving children’s entertainments, including a carousel, while the estate shops were also open to supply food and drink.
He added: “It is a really nice, good day out for them rather than just going out to buy a tree as part of their shopping list. We are trying to get it so family orientated so they come back here every year.”
The estate started growing the trees as a diversification from other activities on the land, including dairy cattle farming and a sawmill, with the aim to find another use for the site.
The estate has also received a certificate from the Forest Stewardship Council for the Christmas tree production, which recognises environmentally sustainable and socially beneficial forest management, in recognition of environmentally friendly practices used to grow the trees, such as keeping pesticide use to a minimum and not putting too much water on the soil. Water is delivered through a perforated pipe.