Environmentally-aware youngsters have kick-started a major project to replace 300 trees that have been lost on Southsea Common since the 1970s.
The boys and girls from St John’s College joined tree enthusiasts from The Tree Council, Portsmouth and Southsea Tree Wardens, the Portsmouth Society and the Southsea Association to plant the Ulmus elms along Ladies’ Mile.
These humble beginnings form part of a grand plan to plant a total of 300 trees over the coming years to replace hundreds lost to the Great Storm of 1987 and many more that succumbed to Dutch elm disease later on.
And the type of elm tree planted by the St John’s youngsters at the special event attended by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Cheryl Buggy, was especially important – as the Ulmus elm is resistant to disease.
Ethan Riggs, 10, who is a member of the school’s eco committee, says: ‘Lots of trees on the common were cut down because of a disease, so we helped to plant elm trees with our big shovels, and we covered the holes with dirt and compost to help them grow.’
Fellow pupil Ethan Charles, five, adds: ‘Today was really good. I enjoyed digging and planting the trees so I can watch them grow.’
All 12 pupils aged between five and 11 threw some entertainment into the mix as they serenaded the Lord Mayor and her consort with their own version of Let The Valleys Be Raised.
Lucy Nelson, 10, who is also a member of the eco committee, says: ‘It was a privilege to be invited today. It was also nice meeting the mayor!’
Claire Davies, head of pre-prep at St John’s, says: ‘It really was an honour to be part of this special event.
‘Not only did the children learn about the type of trees they were planting, but they have contributed towards ensuring there are plenty of trees on the common for others to enjoy.’
But tree planting was not just a one-off green initiative for these youngsters.
Ethan adds: ‘As an eco committee member I make sure that all lights are turned off and windows in classrooms are closed – this helps the school save energy.
‘We also help to clean up litter in and around our local area, or on school trips.’