The Tree Council is the UK’s lead charity for trees in all settings, urban and rural, promoting their importance in a changing environment and it works in partnership with communities, organisations and government to make trees matter to everyone. It was launched in 1974 to run the annual National Tree Week and act as a forum for lobbying and debate, building on the success of National Tree Planting Year with its slogan, Plant A Tree In ’73. Activities have developed to encompass community action, lobbying, awareness raising and grant giving.
Members of The Tree Council now range from professional, non-governmental, specialist and trade organisations, including other conservation charities, to government departments and local authorities. Although individuals may not join The Tree Council, they are encouraged to become members of many of The Tree Council’s constituent organisations.
Tree Warden Scheme
In 1990, The Tree Council founded the national volunteer Tree Warden Scheme, which it still develops and co-ordinates. The 8,000 Tree Wardens are community-based volunteers, organised in local networks, and all enthusiastic environmental activists prepared to devote time and even use some of their own money to champion the causes affecting their neighbourhood trees. Tree Wardens organise activities, fundraise, research and advise on trees and related topics and are a resource for their communities as well as running events for the community action programme and participating in national campaigns in support of The Tree Council or its member organisations.
After training, Tree Wardens become involved in gathering information, local liaison, practical projects and protecting trees. These four roles are the core of the scheme and obvious environmental benefits are gained from involving the community in these endeavours. The Scheme also offers a large-scale environmental education programme, teaching individuals about the value of trees.
The Tree Council raises money for distribution by means of wide-reaching grants programmes, through which funds are made available for a variety or planting programmes. One fund, for community tree planting (Tree Futures), is a restricted reserve for schools and youth groups to ensure that children under the age of sixteen are given the opportunity to get some hands on experience of tree planting, creating a new generation of tree enthusiasts with pride in the improvements they have made to their local ground. Planting funds from commercial organisations are deposited in another, the Tree Bank, from which money is drawn to grant aid replacement of losses, ameliorate damage or balance carbon emissions necessarily sustained in commercial activities. When funds allow, grants may be made for hedge planting (Hedge Fund), regenerating native bluebells and wildflower woodland pasture (Wildflower Bank) and creating community orchards, where possible using fruit trees of local provenance (Orchard Windfalls).
The annual national programme of community action and awareness-raising around trees has grown over the years to become a major part of the work of this organisation. In addition to National Tree Week, The Tree Council also organises and promotes Seed Gathering Season and Walk in the Woods month, supporting the groups organising local events; all these initiatives are aimed at involving as many people as possible in planting, caring for and enjoying trees and woods and their timing reflects the seasons of the tree year.
Seed Gathering Season (SGS) launches annually on 23rd September and continues until 23rd October, encompassing Apple Day which is usually held on 21st October, though with regional variations within SGS. The Season provides opportunities and reminders to everyone that they can collect seeds and grow their own trees for eventual planting out, as well as using them for a range of other purposes such as eating, playing games and creative crafts. Events are organised by local volunteers and groups, though informal walks are also encouraged and Tree Council books such as the Good Seed Guide and Trees and How to Grow Them act as guides for both enthusiasts and amateurs alike.
National Tree Week runs from the last Saturday in November to the first Sunday in December and marks the traditional launch of the winter tree planting season whilst providing the banner under which trees, woods and everything related can be celebrated. It was launched in the wake of National Tree Planting Year (Plant a Tree in ’73) to keep up the momentum and public enthusiasm for tree planting. Upward of a quarter of a million people are now involved in the many tree planting events held during this Week and it is estimated that around a million new trees are put in the ground every year as a result, ensuring the expansion of tree cover and attendant increased biodiversity nationwide. By planning and joining local events with a tree focus, communities are brought together to improve their environment. Tree Dressing Days (held at different times across the country) usually take place during the last weekend of National Tree Week when hanging ribbons, shapes, shining lights and anything which draws attention to the trees we take for granted is intended to highlight our responsibility for looking after trees and remind us of their enormous cultural and environmental importance.
Walk in the Woods month is in May every year, when trees and woodlands are looking particularly beautiful and the weather is clement enough to tempt even the most stay-at-home environmentalists to don their outdoor clothes and make a foray out to enjoy the spring sights. Trees and woods are great because of their role in health and wellbeing – tree’d areas are good for the nation’s condition, places for recreation, exercise and education; they have been proven to have positive effects on mental health and as an antidote to stressful lifestyles, even aiding recuperation from illness. Native trees and woodlands, of course, provide great habitats for wildlife and wild flowers, all of which can be seen on guided walks or events taking place nationwide – or just on an informal stroll out.
Everything that The Tree Council does is directed towards making trees matter to everyone by encouraging the planting of more trees, of the right kind, in the right places; better care for trees of all ages; and inspiring effective action for trees;. We hope that the reader is motivated to play a part in this by contributing time or resources to this work.
For more information, please visit www.treecouncil.org.uk.