Saplings from oak trees grown to commemorate WWI centenary

As part of the Remembrance activities in November 2018 marking the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War, Oundle School pupil, Michael Fuller, now thirteen years old, began an ambitious project that symbolises a commemoration of the past, and renewal and hope for the future.

Inspired by the avenue of English oak trees on Pavilion Drive that had been planted shortly after the war to commemorate the death of Roy Sanderson, the son of Oundle School Headmaster Frederick Sanderson, Michael collected five hundred acorns from the trees. His aim was to grow enough trees to commemorate each of the men from Oundle who died in the war.

Three hundred of the biggest, healthiest and shiniest of these acorns were sorted and put into cold store in order to break their dormancy. Then the acorns were planted into peat-free organic compost after being treated with beneficial fungi that helped to feed and protect the seedlings when they germinated.

Most of the acorns emerged in the spring of 2019 and were planted into bio-degradable pots, which gave each seedling more space, water and nutrition.

Michael said that during that year, the young trees had to withstand attack by squirrels and jackdaws, long periods of hot, dry weather, and one of the wettest autumns on record.

On VE Day during lock-down, all the seedlings were planted into larger pots and given another dose of mycorrhizal fungi. Over the summer the seedlings grew into a miniature forest, sheltered under the canopy of bigger trees.

Finally, on November 11, the planting-out project was inaugurated. Coordinated by Nick Tebbs, Head of Grounds at Oundle School, pupils began the process of planting the oak saplings at Oundle School, Laxton Junior School, Oundle Primary School and Oundle Football Club.

Michael said: “My hope was to plant a tree in remembrance, and to support wildlife, to help combat climate change, or just for people to enjoy in the future.”