A PAINTER and decorator who has a passion for trees and given 15 years of “outstanding commitment” to a South Brent charity has been awarded the BEM for services to the environment.

Jonathan Covey, 58, has devoted a minimum of 20 hours a week for 15 years to Moor Trees, an independent charity dedicated to restoring native woodland on Dartmoor and South Devon.

The BEM recipient told the Ivybridge and South Brent Gazette this week that he was “surprised” people nominated him but “delighted” and hoped it would encourage other people to volunteer.

Jonathan has volunteered as Tree Nursery Manager, Trustee, and Treasurer.

He has tirelessly collected local tree seeds in Devon and grown them into saplings to be planted.

He stores, sows and germinates seeds at home, bringing them to the nursery for transplanting by volunteers months later.

As developer of the nursery he has increased the number of trees grown from 3,000 to 20,000 per annum.

Jonathan has ensured that he links into the climate change agenda through this key work, by providing locally sourced tree stock which is favourable for adaptation to local climate and biodiversity, and biosecurity, as there is less risk of importing pests.

During the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, his determination, when the charity had to cancel their volunteering days, saw him spend additional hours of his own time planting the remaining trees necessary for winter planting to be completed.

His outstanding commitment to Moors Trees was highlighted yet again by the fact that before installing the watering system which he devised, he transported water to the nursery by car to water the seedlings.

Through conscientious monitoring and innovation, he has creatively developed the processes involved in propagating trees, especially rarer species, including spindle.

He has incorporated his best practice techniques for propagating UK native tree seeds into a Moors Trees ‘Grower’s Guide’ which has been used as a blueprint for training new community tree nurseries across the UK to grow tree saplings from local native seeds, helping to achieve the huge demand for locally sourced native trees to fulfil UK tree planting targets.

He has a special talent for assessing the abilities, interests and temperaments of the volunteers and allocating tasks accordingly.

Moor Trees Trustee, Tim Ferry, said: “Jon taught me everything I know about growing trees and is a large part of the reason I devote time to this charity.

Volunteers love working with him; he has a quiet, easy manner while instilling the disciplines to ensure that every tree in the nursery gets the best possible chance to thrive.”

Jonathan said: “We acquired funding a couple of years ago that enabled us to fully develop the nurseries and get paid staff in so I have have taken a bit of a back seat from that after eight years. We now grow about 20 native trees.

“I have really enjoyed working with Moor Trees and am delighted to get this medal — it’s a opportunity to promote volunteering out in the environment.”