Christmas trees, yule logs and winter fun – and all in aid of a far-reaching project to create jobs in South Yorkshire. Star reporter Rachael Clegg meets Chris Taylor, the Christmas tree seller on a mission
WITH a Georgian farm house, rolling hills and wonderful countryside views, there really couldn’t be a more cosy, idyllic place to buy a Christmas tree than Wood Lane in Stannington.
Here, thousands of lush trees are lined up, hand-picked by woodland enthusiast Chris Taylor.
“All our trees are premium trees. We have Norway Spruces and Nordmann Firs, which has softer needles but they drop a lot less than the Norway Spruces. You could put your Nordmann outside after Christmas and come Bonfire Night there will still be needles on it.”
But while the Norway Spruce has a reputation for moulting, Chris says a bit of regular watering soon solves this. “The needles drop because people leave them without watering them,” he says.
His premium trees sell from £35 to £53, a bargain price for trees grown and pruned in a nursery.
“Usually premium trees like this would sell for around £10 a foot but I’m selling them for £6 or £7 a foot.
“I’ve always felt that people get ripped off at Christmas so I wanted to sell quality Christmas trees at a reasonable price.”
There are four grades of Christmas tree, according to Chris, who trained in woodland management and woodland heritage.
“There is the bottom grade, which you wouldn’t even expect a dog to cock its leg against,” says Chris. “And then there’s the ‘seconds’ category, which usually have misshapen branches, and then there’s trees that are of a standard condition and finally, there are the premium trees.”
It’s the top-end trees that Chris is selling at Stannington.
“These are grown in a nursery and pruned and treated.”
And if the thousands of Nordmann Firs aren’t enough to warm your cockles and get you in the Christmas spirit, Chris is also selling apple and pear Christmas yule logs as well as bags of logs and kindling.
He will be giving away either a bag of logs, a bag of kindling or a yule log with every tree.
Chris also has his wood turner at Wood Lane Countryside Centre, on which he can demonstrate ‘green’ woodwork.
“That’s when you work with the wood while it’s still green and form it into various items.”
But Chris’ enterprise isn’t just about Christmas trees, he’s selling the Christmas trees to raise vital funds to establish a South Yorkshire-based children’s clothing line, working with students at the Hillsborough campus of Sheffield College.
“The designs the college students have come up with are brilliant,” says Chris.
“But I need to raise funds to get samples made so we can send them to places like Harrods so buyers can place orders for 2014.”
But for now, Chris is concentrating on raising that money by doing what he knows best - tending to trees.
Wood Lane Countryside Centre, Wood Lane, Stannington, Sheffield, S6 5HE. Telephone : 0114 231 6982 or 0114 285 5097. For information about Chris’ forestry work visit www.woodlandromance.co.uk
Different types of Cristmas tree
Norway Spruce - this is the most common Christmas tree typically grown in Northern and Central Europe, with a strong pine aroma and pointed mid-green needles standing on tiny pegs. This is generally the cheapest of the trees.
Nordmann Fir - originally from South Russia but now grown in Denmark, the Nordmann Fir has longer, softer needles that stay on the tree for longer than those of the Norway Spruce.
Noble Fir - this was first introduced to Britain in 1830 and is a native of Washington and Oregon. The tree is defined by its bluish grey needles, which are at right angles to the twig.
Serbian Spruce - grown in Serbia, this is a very popular tree in Central Europe and has thin, blunt needles.
The Scot’s Pine - the Scot’s Pine’s origins are the forests of Scotland but now the tree’s natural range is Northern Europe and Asia Minor. The Scot’s Pine has twisted blue green needles and pointed cones.
To tree or not to tree? That is the question
Real trees or artificial? Hannah Bryon finds out whether Sheffielders prefer the smell of pine or the fuss-free fake
Picking out a Christmas tree is a family tradition, a chance to have a fun day out and an occasion that earmarks the start of the festive season.
Finding the perfect tree can be a lengthy process – but seeing the finished product, lavishly decorated with coloured tinsel and baubles, standing proudly in the window, is a tradition many look forward to.
But year-on-year one question shadows the occasion: do you buy a real tree or do you opt for an artificial one?
The battle between the smell of fresh pines on a fir tree, versus the convenience of an artificial one leaves many baffled.
This year real trees are outselling fake trees at B&Q. The store asked 2,000 people which tree they would be putting their presents under this Christmas and 55 per cent said they would be buying the real thing.
Already, the store has sold 600,000 real and grow-your-own Christmas trees – double the number sold last year.
But what is it that attracts us to real Christmas trees?
Jean Sales, who runs Greenscene Garden Centre, Sheffield, sells both real and artificial trees but finds that, year after year, real trees outsell the fakes.
She said: “We sell about 1,000 real trees every year and less than half that number of artificial trees. Real ones are traditional – people like the fragrance and they look lovely too.
“Also, they are biodegradable, and the remains can be used in your garden whereas artificial trees are harder to get rid of.”
Whirlow Hall Farm Trust, a Sheffield-based environmental and educational charity, has stopped selling artificial trees.
Head of retail and catering Rob Waitt believes real trees are much more than just an attractive Christmas decoration for the front room.
He said: “We sold 650 real trees last year but this year we are expecting to sell 1,000. A real tree is something you grow up with at Christmas. It doesn’t matter what age you are, everybody has some good memories of Christmas and I think a real tree triggers those memories.”
The Tree Amigos, selling an array of real trees in Sheffield city centre, have already noticed an increase in sales.
Michelle Flaherty, working on the stall, said: “As soon as we started this year I was really surprised by how many we were selling.
“This year, I think people have just got really excited about it. One woman who was about 60 told me she’s buying a real one for the first time this year!”
Despite many people growing up with a real Christmas tree, sales of artificial trees are still strong, with 71 per cent of people in one survey saying they prefer having a fake tree over the festive season.
People who opt for the more purse-friendly option said one of the main reasons they would be buying fake this year was for convenience, while 54 per cent said they liked being able to use it year on year.
Trevor Bernard, of Crosspool, has bought an artificial tree this year. He said: “The real ones are a lot of fuss. You have to stand them in a pot and it can get messy.”
They may not offer that festive smell or the feel of a real tree, but artificial trees are far from un-traditional.
Jamie Fell, garden centre manager for the B&Q store on Penistone Road, Sheffield, said: “Before December we sell more artificial trees, probably because there is more choice. We have 35 different types of artificial trees as opposed to only six kinds of real trees.”
Pat Brears, managing director at Rhinegold Garden Centre, Loxley, has also found that sales of artificial trees are strong. She said: “Our sales of artificial trees are continuing to increase and I think this is down to the fact that you can re-use them year on year.”