my year in trees


Dear fellow tree lovers,

I’m sorry I’ve not written in so long; I hope you will understand. It’s not that I’ve grown tired of arboreal adventures; it’s just that a certain new little person in my life is making it tricky to find the time to write them down…

She’s napping now, in the shade of the plum, lilac and apple trees in our back garden, so I thought I’d use the time to leaf through the highlights of last year’s epic journey through trees.

It began with a tree walk and I went on discovering trees on walks throughout the year. Along linear treescapes I travelled – avenues, hedgerows, former railway lines and once even, a holloway (a sunken pathway lined with cavernous tree roots) and through woods I wandered – ancient woods and copses, but mostly just the little spinneys in the corners of my local parks.


My adventures were always closely tied with the tree year and The Tree Council’s annual community action programme. I cared for baby trees at the Hackney Tree Nursery with the Hackney Tree Musketeers during the Tree Care Campaign, which runs each year from March to September. I collected seeds in a so far unsuccessful attempt to grow future trees and marvelled at the autumnal colours during Seed Gathering Season and I helped plant trees in National Tree Week, which falls within the bareroot tree planting season.

I never had to travel far to meet interesting and unusual trees. Every time I walked around my nearest park, Downhills Park, with Tree Warden Stephen Middleton he introduced me to another tree species: a Persian Ironwood, a Cork Oak, a False Acacia, a Kentucky Coffee Tree…

But my journey took me beyond London too. In June, I hiked through the ancient wood pastures of the New Forest, immersing myself in a mosaic of trees, scrub and open space. In August, I enjoyed a glorious solo walk through the Chilterns, following waymarkers daubed onto tree trunks. And in October I visited Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire with the Ancient Tree Forum (a member of The Tree Council) in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the birth of legendary landscape architect, Capability Brown.

Never did ‘Changing Views’ – the theme of The Tree Council’s 2016/17 community action programme – seem more relevant than at Wimpole. Everywhere I looked there were signs of a shifting landscape in the form of ancient and veteran trees growing alongside seedlings and saplings. It was here that I had my first sighting of ash dieback, the fungal disease that is predicted to devastate our ash tree population, and it was here too that I first saw an elm wood – these days, a very rare view indeed.

Alas, I didn’t manage to fulfil all of my tree-related resolutions. For instance, I didn’t climb any trees but I hope you’ll let me off that one…

My arboreal adventures have continued into 2017. Perhaps I’ll tell you about them sometime, naps permitting…

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