‘I’m seen as the fool’: the farmers putting trees back into the UK’s fields

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It’s hoped a 12-year trial in Devon will persuade policymakers to back silvopasture to benefit the soil, livestock and climate

Andy Gray stands beside an enormous hill of bare red earth and smiles with a hint of mischief. This is his best field, its soils known as Crediton red land. The region was once known for producing swedes prized by Covent Garden market. Now, every six metres, planted in rows 14 metres apart, stands a tree guard shielding a young oak, aspen or alder.

“You can grow anything on it and I’m planting trees,” says Gray, a 16th-generation Devon farmer. “I’m seen as the fool on the hill. One neighbour said ‘you might as well concrete it over and build houses’. They could be right. Who knows?”

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