‘Love of trees is in our roots, we must stop the culls now’

This week the Woodland Trust is encouraging people to nominate their
favourite tree.

I have a favourite tree, it’s a Beech about 650 years old, it’s the best tree in the woods where I live.

I go to it pretty much every day and I wander around it and think “wow”. It makes me feel humble because of how long it has lived and what it has seen.

That tree will hopefully be here long after I’m dust.

It is a remarkable thing, it’s lived through all of our recent history and hopefully it will live for many many years to come.

But our trees are now critically under threat because thousands are needlessly being felled.

Trees are essential organisms in our environment.

They are important aesthetically in cities where they line the streets with green, making it a pleasant place to be.

Crucially, this is important for our physical and mental health, too. Spending time walking through a green space is proven to be mentally beneficial; walking through the woods with my dog Scratchy is my daily therapy.

In Japan, they have a thing called Shinrin Yoku, which is forest therapy where you bathe in the woods, immersing yourself in that environment.

In Sheffield at the moment there is what I believe to be one of the most grotesque acts of natural vandalism taking place.

The city has been endowed with a rich legacy of beautiful trees which form avenues, improve the physical and mental health of its citizens, and add to the wildlife value of that city.

Now they are being needlessly felled.

I’ve been there and I’ve seen it – there’s no ambiguity about it, it is totally unnecessary.

Tree experts from all over the world were there with their heads in their hands, asking “What is going on here?”

The council say it’s for maintenance of the highways and the pavements, they say the trees are damaging the built-in environment. But from what I’ve seen the damage is far more extensive as they rip out these glorious pillars of nature.

And this is happening across a lot of cities in the UK.

We have listed buildings, Georgian and Tudor, which are considered part of our national heritage, they’re national treasures.

We invest money in their restoration and maintenance, I am not against that, but these trees that are being cut down are very often much older than these buildings and they’re completely irreplaceable.

If these buildings were to burn down, it is justifiably tragic that we’ve lost a piece of architecture that is irreplaceable.

But when a beautiful 600-year-old oak tree in the prime of its life and covered in wildlife, standing there like one of nature’s statues, is cut down, no one cares and no one is culpable.

There are tree preservation orders, but they are often ignored and trees are cut down by developers anyway, especially if they will end up make making more money if they pay the fine and go ahead with their project.

Not nearly enough trees are protected. That’s why a Woodland Trust scheme that I have been supportive of, to get people to name trees and to get them to form a bond with a tree, is so good.

This way, trees become a part of our culture and a part of us.

People underestimate how important the urban environment is, particularly our gardens.

If you add all of our gardens together, that’s an area the size of Suffolk. That green space is very productive, it thrives around us because people plant flowers and other greenery in their gardens.

If you want to help, there are a number of projects where new forest floors are being planted, thanks to volunteers.

And if you are fortunate enough to have a garden or any green space at all, then plant a tree.

When I was a kid, there was a government initiative to plant a tree in 73. And I remember at school we did just that. For the price of an acorn, plant a tree in your space, own it and cherish it.

Grow it, let your kids climb it, let them explore it and let it become a part of them.

We need to develop a fundamental respect for these amazing things that exist in a completely different time span than we do, before it is too late.

  • For more information, visit www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

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