Ride for Research arrives in Reading

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By Russell Ball, Ride Leader.

Ride date: 2nd September 2012

In comparison to the inaugural ride in 2011 – when 22 riders took part – this was set to be a smaller and less hectic event being held on a Sunday, while no schools were open, instead coinciding with the Arboricultural Association’s national conference Field Day. The route was designed to be a circular tour around Reading city, avoiding the busy congested centre and taking in the quieter suburbs, and of course, the River Thames.

Russell Ball
Russell Ball providing the riders’ briefing

I awoke early on the morning of the ride to persistent misting rain: the kind that soaks through to the skin! Not good for any rider’s spirit. But as I rode to Reading University (the start & finish point) I was confident that we’d have a full-house and that again the ride would succeed in its quest to meet and greet: and plant trees! True to form all eleven riders* showed with an array of racing, mountain and hybrid bikes. After a round of introductions (from some who’d done the inaugural ride), handing out the yellow Ride for Research (RfR) t-shirts and a route briefing, we set-off to a planting date in Prospect Park with the Mayor of Reading, Jenny Rynn, who turned out to have a keen interest in Acute Oak Decline! A London Plane was duly planted. The image of Robin Helllier clutching Madam Mayor’s handbag while she tended a silver spade will stay with me for a long time!

The first tree to be planted in Reading
Riders approach the first tree to be planted in Prospect Park, Reading
Robin Hellier holding Madam Mayor's handbag while she planted a tree
Robin Hellier holding Madam Mayor’s handbag while she planted a tree

With no sign of the rain clearing, we headed off to Arthur Newbery Park where a lime tree was planted. We were greeted by a solitary Tree Warden, who was keen to talk about the very active Tree Warden Scheme that had been set up in the City only the year previous. By this time the rain had cleared and our ‘tree-gang’ of riders was installing trees with great proficiency! With stakes and ties all in place, we rode across the park and down a steep grassy hill. At the bottom, Robin stole the show again by pulling up to a halt but failing to get his feet out the pedal toe clamps and slowly pitching sideways: flat onto the floor. The tiny knee graze seemed worthy of the hearty laughter it generated.

Mayor of Reading Jenny Rynn planting the first tree of the day with the riders
Mayor of Reading Jenny Rynn planting the first tree of the day with the riders

The city is furnished with ample cycle lanes. One of these took us to the site where the Reading Festival had recently been held, and the Thames path with lush river-side gardens and flocks of brilliant white swans. Once over Caversham bridge, we entered the picturesque Christchurch Gardens for the third and final public park tree planting (this time, a copper beech) but not before a cuppa from the Wellington tea barge. By this time a small group of Tree Wardens joined us to talk about the ride, and tree research, after which we assembled around the beech for its group installation.

Riders' tea break at Christchurch Meadows
Riders’ tea break at Christchurch Meadows

The next leg followed the Thames path once again, this time under Reading bridge, and across a narrow weir. Despite many candid calls to Gabriel Hemery (our tour photographer) to wade out into the raging white water to get better shots, he sensibly declined! And rightly so! On we pressed through the suburbs of the city for a fine barbeque at the Bartletts lab and field trial station. After a tasty and well-earned lunch, Ian Barrow (Bartletts UK Manager) welcomed us and explained the research set-up. This was ably followed by Dr Glynn Percival and an extensive tour of the P&D plots: rows of trees subjected to an array of parasitic and pathogenic nasties, the trees then being brought back from the brink using state-of-the-art treatments (or at least, this is the aim). This is pioneering research aimed at helping to save our urban tree stocks of tomorrow!

Dr Glynn Percival, Barlett Tree Research Laboratory, addresses riders
Dr Glynn Percival, Barlett Tree Research Laboratory, talks to riders about cutting-edge research to ensure tree health into the future

Back in the lab Jon Banks, a fellow rider and Bartlett research technician, showed us their new dissecting stereo microscope that can provide magnifications of up to 100x¹º for examining anything from fungal spores to hairs on an aphid’s leg! We were treated to Jon’s skill of peeling back an epidermal leaf layer under high magnification using forceps to expose a hidden leaf miner. A high resolution photograph was then taken of said leaf miner’s mandibles that have true alien architecture. No wonder leaves stand little chance! A call from Rupert Taylor (Deputy Grounds Manager) at Reading University heralded our departure to meet up with the delegates attending the Arboricultural Association’s Field Day.

Ride for Research 2012 Reading City riders with some AA members at the end of the event
Ride for Research 2012 Reading City riders with some AA members at the end of the event

So the last few miles were ground out with the ride’s end in sight. To this point the ride had gone smoothly. However, with literally a few hundred metres to go, at an increasingly slow speed, Tim Moya misjudged a kerb, caught his bike and landed in a heap. Assisted to his feet he was fine, only to see Ian Haynes loose his bike chain… but we made it to the final AA Field Day tree planting, this time an Atlantic cedar!

I’ll leave the last words to Tim Moya:

“Speaking on behalf of the older and less athletic element (me) – I loved it”.

Many thanks to our Fund4Trees founding sponsors: Arbol EuroConsulting; ArborTrack; Brian G. Crane & Associates; Glendale; Institute of Chartered Foresters; TreeLife; UKI ISA Chapter; Symbiosis and the Sylva Foundation. Also to the RfR t-shirt and insurance sponsors Tree Surveys and Patrick Stileman Ltd. Special thanks to Dave Booth at Reading Council for sorting the route and making sure the tree planting went smoothly, and to Barchams for the trees.

Russell Ball, Ride Leader

Next ride October 16th in Birmingham. Register here

*The Riders

Jon Banks (Bartlett Tree Experts), Mick Boddy (Symbiosis Consulting Ltd.), David Dearsly (Tim Moya & Associates), Martin Gammie (South Oxfordshire & Vale of White Horse DC), Ian Haynes (Glendale Countryside), Robin Hellier (Epping Forest District Council), Gabriel Hemery (Sylva Foundation), Tim Moya (Tim Moya & Associates), Patrick Stileman (Patrick Stileman Ltd.) and Peter Wharton (Wharton Arboriculture Ltd.). Three Riders had deferred to the 16th October Birmingham ride. AA Conference Field Day delegates and RfR Riders planting the RfR cedar in the grounds of Reading University.

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