Learning in, about and for the natural environment through Acorn Antics
At this time of year, we’d normally be encouraging education groups to get outside and collect acorns on our behalf as part of the Acorn Antics campaign. Due to current circumstances, we are unable to run the campaign this year but hope to see it return in 2021. Here’s Aled Hopkin, Specialist Advisor: Children, Education, Lifelong, to explain more about the project and look back at some of the achievements to date.
The first national Acorn Antics campaign was held in 2017. It was a good year for acorns, and just over a tonne of acorns was collected from 76 different locations across Wales. The campaign has gone from strength to strength since then as interest and awareness has grown, with groups from schools and nurseries, to Brownies and Young Farmers getting involved.
Each autumn, we’ve been asking learners from all corners of Wales to help make sure we have plentiful stocks of native, local oak trees by going out to collect acorns in their local area. It is a great way to get children and young people learning in, about and for the natural environment whilst raising funds for their setting.
So how does it work? After they’ve been out collecting, participating groups drop off their acorns at the nearest NRW office. They are delivered to Oakmere Nurseries in Cheshire (part of Forest England, Plant and Seed Supply), for grading, weighing and planting. We then reward the education group with payment for their efforts, based on the number and quality of the acorns collected.
When the acorns have developed into small but hardy trees, they are taken from the tree nursery between October and April and are planted within the area from which they were collected as acorns.
With an ever-changing climate, Welsh oak trees face a fight for survival against pests and diseases. Trees grown from local seed stock will have a higher growth rate and ability to survive and resist diseases than trees grown and imported from further afield.
By having education groups from across Wales taking part in our Acorn Antics campaign we receive acorns which have been collected from numerous different locations, helping us increase and strengthen the genetic gene pool of our Welsh oak trees.
The first Acorn Antics oak trees, grown from acorns collected in 2017 came back to Wales and were planted just outside the town of Ruthin in Denbighshire in 2019 by some of the learners that helped to collect the acorns.
In 2019, we received 166 sacks of acorns from 44 education groups from across Wales. 1,083.45 kg of acorns were collected in six weeks from 87 locations – that’s roughly 3.2 million acorns, enough to plant 232 football pitches full of oak trees!
NRW aims to plant over 870,000 broadleaf trees each year; 300,000 of these will be Welsh oak trees. Acorn Antics plays a big part in helping us achieve this. We’re grateful to all the schools and education groups who have been involved to date, and we look forward to kicking off the campaign again next autumn if circumstances allow.
In the meantime, we have plenty of activities and educational resources about acorns and oaks on our website. Go to our Trees and Woodlands webpage.