Award-winning Dorset duo Ninebarrow will celebrate the launch of their fourth studio album A Pocket Full of Acorns next spring by fulfilling a long-held wish to address their carbon footprint.
In the week leading up to the arboreal-titled album’s release (March 5, 2021) Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere will lead a working party in the planting of 1,000 native English trees and 200 shrubs to form ‘The Ninebarrow Woodland’.
To be sited on three acres of land near Gillingham in north Dorset, the ambitious project will see saplings of 10 different species planted, half of which will be English oaks, tying neatly in with the album’s ‘acorn’ title.
The pair, who were nominated for Best Emerging Act at the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards are known for their stand-out songs inspired by Dorset and the great outdoors and, until COVID hit, had a busy UK touring schedule.
Says Jon: “Jay and I have long had concerns about the impact our touring has on the environment. In a normal year, we’d drive more than 10,000 miles across the country and that alone is a frightening thought in terms of the carbon footprint it creates. One wet Sunday afternoon, we started thinking about the fact that Ninebarrow’s carbon footprint is generated not only by us but also by the audiences that travel to come and see us play.
“Being a bit of a spreadsheet geek, I decided to try to calculate our carbon footprint to the best of my ability. We sell a lot of gig tickets through our own website, so have a fairly good idea how far people travel to come to our shows. It took quite a bit of research and some estimating as to who may have shared cars or taken public transport – but at the final reckoning we’d worked out that every year, Ninebarrow was generating over 2.5 tonnes of Co2 just through the mileage we were clocking up. On top of that, we estimated that a further half tonne of CO2 was being generated per gig through audiences travelling to and from the venues.
“It was a shock to discover that across our musical careers, which started in 2012 and might, if we are lucky, span some 25-30 years, we would generate nearly 1000 tonnes of CO2.”
That thought was in their minds as they started working on their fourth studio album. Whilst visiting the National Trust’s Souter Lighthouse in South Shields they learnt of the true story of Newcastle-on-Tyne born Vice-Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Lord Nelson’s second-in-command at the Battle of Trafalgar.
At the time of the Napoleonic Wars, the grand ships of the Royal Navy were built from mighty oaks and Collingwood became concerned that forests were being depleted. Fearful for the future of the Navy and the nation he took to carrying acorns in his pockets, planting seeds in suitable places as he went on his rambles. Says Jay: “The story really touched us. The notion of using one’s time on earth to help secure a future for those who come after us seems to have been lost in modern times.”
“We decided to make the resulting song –A Pocket Full of Acorns – the title track of the new album and the more we thought about it, the more we felt the need to do more. Writing a song about other people doing something for future generations just didn’t seem to go far enough. And so we came up with the idea of planting a wood. A wood with enough trees to offset not only Ninebarrow’s past and future carbon emissions but also the carbon footprint of our past and future audiences too.
“We’re fortunate to have family living in north Dorset who happen to have a three acre field, currently lying fallow, who were enthusiastic about our idea.”
The duo made an application to The Woodland Trust MOREWoods scheme and were delighted when the Trust agreed to cover 75% of the costs of planting 1000 native broad-leaved trees and 200 shrubs on this piece of land.
So in the week that A Pocket Full of Acorns is released Jon and Jay will gather with a group of socially distanced friends and family to dig deep and plant The Ninebarrow Woodland. Spearheaded by 500 oaks, the collection will also include 125 each of silver birch and hornbeam, 75 wild cherries, 50 field maples and 25 each of alder, crab apple, walnut, rowan and sweet chestnut.
In addition there will be three different shrubs as a windbreak – 100 hazel, 75 hawthorn and 25 spindle bushes.
Says Jon: “We’re under no illusions about the imperceptible impact that planting 1000 trees will have on the climate emergency our planet is currently facing. But we wanted to make a statement about the fact that it is within all our powers to do more than we are currently doing. We all need to play our part and take what action we can to ensure future generations and life on this planet in all its myriad forms – have something to inherit.”
A Pocket Full of Acorns is released on the Winding Track label on Friday, March 5 (CD and DL format), exclusively available from the Ninebarrow website www.ninebarrow.co.uk
Just for fun – crazy rain in Dorset: