A Worcestershire Garden Maintenance company celebrates the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year 2016 competition
As someone who has worked in and around trees and flora all my life, I sometimes despair of the lack of engagement and appreciation that many people in the modern world possess about the natural world and especially the wildlife on their doorstep. To far too many people, the only time they ever rub their hands over a piece of oak is on a visit to Oak Furniture Land, or unpacking a teak bookshelf from IKEA.
The natural environment to some is seemingly as alien as the surface of the moon!
That is why we at Instant Scenery applaud initiatives like the Woodland Trust’s ‘Tree of the Year’ competition, which seeks to engage with the wider public and get them to appreciate the natural wonders living alongside us.
It is a simple enough concept: every year the Trust holds a contest for people to choose their favoured tree from a list of short-listed specimens in four geographical categories: England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Island. The winner of each category will go on to represent each country in a European wide contest to win ‘Tree of the Year.’
A winning nomination for each country is not just the endowment of a title however. There is a cash benefit of £1000 that can be spent on an arboriculturalist to carry out a full health check (or, alternatively, it can be spent on a party to celebrate the tree by local residents!) But there is more – any tree that gains over 1000 votes will win £500 of money for similar expenditures.
In England, the competition consists of 10 trees that can be voted for. Amongst them is the famous Sycamore that stands vigil over Hadrian’s Wall in the dramatic vistas of Northumberland (and makes an appearance in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, I believe), as well as the original Bramley apple tree in Nottinghamshire, from where all Bramley apples originate. There is even a rather forlorn Mulberry bush that grows in a Yorkshire prison yard, said to be the origin of the song “Here go around the Mulberry bush . . .”
To view the trees in each of the countries, please go to the Woodland Trust’s website and explore – alas, there are no nominations for Worcestershire however! (I have provided a link at the bottom).
Whilst such an exercise in raising the profile of our great trees is indeed worth it, I do feel as though I have to ask whether the competition suffers from “The Cuteness Factor” in conservation – that is the apparent popularity of endangered species that are cuter than others. This has a direct impact on the money raised: koalas and pandas seem to be closer to our hearts (and our wallets), than the purple pink-nosed frog, or the unfortunately named scrotum frog (and not to mention the vicious, nightmare creatures like pacific lampreys!)
The three trees I mentioned out of the ten in the list are all special in their own way: be it for historical reasons (the Bramley), or cultural (the Mulberry bush and the Sycamore), and others are very out-of-the-ordinary trees in the way they have grown. Whilst exceptional specimens will naturally be included in a list of anything ‘… of the year’ I can’t help but feel it would have been an equally beneficial exercise to actually break the list down by species, as this would help give people more experience of tree types rather than cultural and historical quirks.
This in turn would help educate the public and be beneficial in recruiting citizen scientists for documentary exercises that we might very well need in the near future, due to the onset of Ash Dieback and Acute Oak Decline, both threats that could alter the British landscape as much as Dutch Elm Disease has done since the 1920s.
So we must welcome the initiative of the Woodland Trust nonetheless, and hope it helps address the lack of experience and knowledge, and overall appreciation, of the nature on our doorsteps.