It's so very nearly time for Christmas, which means many of us will be thinking WHERE and WHEN do we get our Christmas tree!
If you're opting for a real tree this year, make sure you head over to Dewcombe Christmas Trees at Lawhitton - a family-run business where the trees are planted by hand on-site and are nurtured all year round by David Chudleigh, a timber harvesting manager with a wealth of knowledge and experience in forestry. When picking your tree, you're sure to be assisted by David's wife Emmanuelle and their seven-year-old daughter Elize - Dewcombe's very own Christmas helper!
With five varieties of Christmas trees on-site, there will be something for everyone to take home - from the traditional Norway spruce and bushy Nordmann fir, to the more unusual Korean fir and blue spruce.
With his background in forestry, David takes his love for the outdoors into the weekends, working long hours to care for each tree - of which there are more than 6,500 planted across two fields.
David began this venture in 2015, and the trees are planted every two years. Across the site, there are numerous trees of all shapes and sizes, some ready to become Christmas trees this year, while others still have a couple of years of growing to do. 2023 will be David’s fifth planting season.
Nordmann fir makes up 70% of the plantation, while Norway spruce makes up another 10%. The remaining 20% consist of more unusual species such as blue spruce, Noble fir, Korean fir and Fraser fir.
The farm opens up on the last weekend of November for four weekends leading up to Christmas, welcoming the community to come and select their tree for the festive season. Opening days will be the Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the first two weekends, and then Saturdays and Sundays on the following two weekends.
David marks up a number of trees ready to be sold, while the rest of the trees stay snug in the ground until it’s their time to go. People can come and reserve a tree to collect at a later date, or they can simply come on the day, choose their tree and take it home there and then!
Farming Christmas trees is hard work; pruning starts in July and finishes in September, which is a vital step to ensuring the trees have a great shape. David prunes each and every tree by hand, and although he’s treated himself to some machinery to help with the grass cutting - you can only imagine how long this process will take when tackling over 6,500 Christmas trees!
David also has local wildlife and the weather to contend with. The trees can make quite a nice snack for rabbits and deer, so the family has invested in rabbit netting and deer fences to prevent wildlife from entering the fields and munching on the trees - although some still fall victim to the occasional rabbit feast.
The weather can also play a large part in the growing process. The Nordmann Firs planted in 2017 were hit by a hard frost two years in a row, which burnt off their new tender shoots, although they are recovering well thanks to David’s hard work. “It’s a labour of love,” David admitted.
While the argument of real versus false Christmas trees ensues every year, the Chudleighs are confident that buying a Christmas tree from their plantation, which are hand planted every two years, is the best option. Being as sustainable as possible is important to David.
“With 6,500 trees growing, and another 4 – 6,000 going in over the next six years, there are more than enough to match what is being taken each Christmas.”
Visiting Dewcombe Christmas Trees this November and December also offers a fantastic day out for the family - dogs are allowed too!
Emmanuelle, who helps every weekend along with their daughter Elize, said: “Visiting a local Christmas tree farm helps with the education of children. It makes them a bit more responsible, because they get to see the process behind the Christmas trees. It’s also nice for them to have a look at the smaller trees, then next year come back and see how much they have grown!”
Dewcombe Christmas Trees is open every weekend from Friday 25th November . The first 2 weekends are Friday, Saturday and Sunday (25th, 26th, 27th November, 2nd, 3rd, 4th December) and the last two weekends are Saturdays and Sundays only (10th, 11th 17th and 18th December). As well as freshly cut Christmas trees, there will also be wreaths, stands and potted trees available. Bring your wellies and step into the wonderful fresh air to select your perfect Christmas tree…