Clive Collins at Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm
PUBLISHED: 15:33 04 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:35 02 January 2018
Clive Collins has been growing trees for Sussex Christmases for more than a quarter-century. He talks to Duncan Hall about his year
For Clive Collins and his team growing Christmas trees is a year-round job.
“We have to protect them against aphids, spiders and fungus,” he says. “We apply a smart fertiliser around the base of each tree. The fertiliser breaks down when the growing conditions are correct. We prune the trees so they are the right shape – otherwise we would get a tree which is as wide as it is tall. And we do a lot of weeding up and down the rows. We have lots of green lanes to give some biodiversity.”
Clive began the business in 1988 planting six acres with Christmas trees. An accident while working as a forester in 1990 left him paralysed from the waist down. It meant the business became his main focus. Now the farm cultivates 33 acres of land, 25 of which are Christmas trees. They follow a nine-year cycle across ten plantations as the trees grow to the optimum height of 6ft 6in, planting about 3,000 trees a year.
There is also a Christmas shop, run by Phil Reynolds, which sells decorations, lights and mistletoe. Through the year Clive is supported by three part-time workers, whose numbers swell to 12 at peak season. “It’s a lovely business,” he says. “Christmas is a time for getting together. Seeing the children having fun really makes it for the adults.”
A donation from each tree sale goes to the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance, which took Clive to hospital after his accident. Having raised £800 last year, Clive hopes to raise £1,000 this year. Proceeds from an annual carol concert among the trees with Catsfield Church of England Primary School on Monday 4 December 2017, will also go to the charity.