My National Tree Week began with an oak circle and ended with a cherry avenue – two kinds of man-made treescape, both intended to change and improve views. (It also involved a spot of ‘tree dressing’ but I’ll tell you more about that later.)
The cherry avenue grows amongst an oasis of trees, both mature and young, native and introduced, on Tottenham Green, the civic heart of Tottenham, and just like the oak circle, it had lost two of its 12 trees since it was originally planted. From the French ‘venir’, meaning ‘to come’, avenues draw the eye onwards and inwards, giving a sense of travel even in a relatively small green space in a built-up area.
With the Tottenham Winter Festival taking place on the green that day, we (myself and Margaret from Tottenham Trees and Haringey tree officers Kevin and Luke) had no trouble finding recruits to help with the planting and, in little time, the avenue and the view were restored.
As it was also Tree Dressing Day, we continued to change views by asking volunteers to help us decorate two of the trees on the green – a hawthorn and another cherry. Initiated by Tree Council member, Common Ground, Tree Dressing Day inspires people to celebrate and thank trees during the last weekend of National Tree Week and is based on many old customs from around the world.
We dressed our two chosen trees with decorations made from old CDs as well as beautifully designed paper leaves provided by Common Ground and The Woodland Trust. On them we asked people to write a few words about what trees mean to them to help contribute towards the Tree Charter, which is gathering thoughts and stories about trees to help push trees up the political agenda.
Here are some of things that they wrote:
‘We get conkers from trees’
‘Trees clean the air’
‘They provide a home for birds’
‘They make childhood wild’
‘I love to climb trees!’
Such was the great response from festival goers that we collected an incredible 57 trees stories that day, adding to Tottenham Trees’ grand total of 400 tree stories, thoughts and memories.
The avenue runs through the heart of Tottenham Green but we deliberately chose two trees at the edges for the ‘dressing’. On one side, the hawthorn is overlooked by the library and the arts centre and on the other, the cherry is right beside a bus stop. People looked out from bus and building windows as we dressed the trees into the evening, the CDs glinting in the street lights.
We left the decorations up for a few days so that they could continue to change views for a little longer – both from windows and of the value of trees in all our lives.