Tag Archives: Woodland trust

Tree planting

The best time for planting trees is when they don’t have any leaves on them – it’s less disturbing to the tree and they’ll likely do better as a consequence. The downside of this is that tree planting is a cold business and the soil may be very wet or very frozen so it can be dirty and hard work. Still, it’s absolutely worth it if you can manage it.

Tree planting used to be part of my seasonal activity, and it was something I did as part of my Pagan practice. I believe in trees – which isn’t a difficult thing to do. Trees take up carbon, clean our air, provide habitats for insects, birds, mammals and reptiles. They’re good for human mental health, and I’ve run into evidence to suggest we’re better people when we have trees around us. We’re less violent in the company of trees. That trees are a force for good doesn’t take much belief at all.

We need more trees. In terms of action against climate change and a way of dealing with flooding, they’re an excellent option. Planting trees is a way of being part of the solution. It’s a real and uncomplicated action you can take to help tackle the problems we face. It makes a difference wherever you do it.

If you’re in the UK, The Woodland Trust has free tree planting packs for schools and communities, there’s other options too for land owners, or you can buy tree packs or single trees. Wander this way to learn more http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/

I’m hoping to get back to tree planting next year. I have a plan. It pays to start thinking about it well ahead of time because if you don’t have land of your own, you need to find somewhere you can plant, which takes time. You’ll need to talk to people, and you may have to educate them, or persuade them. You may need to do some research about the best kinds of trees to plant in the spaces available to you. You may need more people involved. Start thinking now, and you’ll have a much better shot at planting trees next year.

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Photo from The Woodland Trust – Community Tree Pack. Tree Saplings, Tree Tubes and Wooden Stakes on Pallet. Photo by: WTML

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Urban trees for magical transformation

Like many Pagans, I do not in fact live in the wilderness. Most of us are urban, which makes the idea of nature as something away from humans rather awkward. How can you celebrate nature, commune with it and base your spirituality around it if nature is somewhere else? There can be a temptation to work with ideas about nature rather than direct experience. For me, one of the things that makes Paganism so good is that we don’t have to rely on what we can imagine, but can instead have that direct, first hand experience of the living world.

Urban trees can be a great way of experiencing non-human entities on a daily basis. It helps that they tend to stay put so can be visited reliably. Trees are good for people in all kinds of ways. I’ve just been sent some really interesting stuff from The Woodland Trust about how urban trees impact on us, so I thought I’d share some of that. I think there’s a lot to take on here about what it means to be in contact with trees, even in apparently unpromising environments.

I think it’s widely known that trees reduce air and noise pollution, and that a single mature tree can release enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two people. Access to any kind of green space encourages good mental health and physical activity. Urban trees help slow rainfall, and also reduce temperatures in hot weather – overheating can be a killer. Some of the impacts The Woodland Trust are reporting were more surprising, though.

Public housing residents with nearby trees and natural landscapes reported 25% fewer acts of domestic aggression and violence. I think this is a staggering figure. Humans without trees are not as functional. Further, children exposed to nature score higher on concentration and self-discipline; improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills, doing better in reading, writing, maths, science and social studies, are better at working in teams, and show improved behaviour overall. We are better people when we have trees.

One piece of tree data I found surprising is that street trees may improve driving safety. One study found a 46% decrease in crash rates across urban arterial and highway sites after landscape improvements were made and street trees were planted. Clearly, trees do not improve visibility for drivers, but they do break up the monotony, perhaps encouraging drivers to be more aware of what’s changing around them. Perhaps trees alongside roads are just calming in the way trees are other places.

I started supporting The Woodland Trust years ago because it seemed like a good expression of being a Druid, and a good way to contribute to the wellbeing of landscape and that which dwells in it. The challenges facing humans are so vast right now, so overwhelming that it can feel impossible to know where to start responding. It can feel like one person’s small difference is hardly worth making, and that can render us powerless.

We are better and healthier people when we have trees. We are less likely to kill each other. If children have better reasoning and observational skills when exposed to nature, it seems reasonable to assume that adults will too. Which means that if we want to change the people around us, helping them to be kinder, more reflective and able to make better choices, one of the ways we can do that is with tree planting. It’s a lot less emotionally exhausting than trying to reason with the unreasonable as well. Working to develop urban green spaces might move us towards answers to far more complicated problems. Trees have a magic of their own, and when people experience trees, they can change simply because of that.

Some sources –

Kuo, F.E., and W.C. Sullivan. 2001. Aggression and Violence in the Inner City: Effects of Environment Via Mental Fatigue. Environment and Behavior 33, 4:543-571. Facts reported by the University of Washington http://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/Thm_Crime.html

Sigman, A. (2007) Agricultural Literacy: Giving concrete children food for thought www.face-online.org.uk/resources/news/Agricultural%20Literacy.pdf

Donovan et al, 2013, The Relationship Between Trees and Human Health: Evidence from the Spread of the Emerald Ash Borer https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0749379712008045

3 Naderi, J.R. 2003. Landscape Design in the Clear Zone: Effect of Landscape Variables on Pedestrian Health and Driver Safety. Transportation Research Record 1851:119-130.

 


Wood Wise

Learning about the natural world is an important part of the Pagan path. Otherwise we run the risks of having some very odd ideas about what nature is. We may end up thinking of nature as something exotic, away and largely unavailable to us – which isn’t true. We may end up with nature as some kind of abstract concept that we celebrate by calling to it from our living rooms, and that’s not optimal. Even if life obliges you to be a mostly indoors Pagan, learning more about nature enriches a practice.

For Pagan parents, aunt, uncles, grandparents etc, teaching children about nature can be a great way of sharing your path with your young humans. I know many Pagans are uneasy about indoctrinating children, and some paths aren’t really suitable for younger folk anyway. This is a great place to start, and a child who grows up with a deep love of and understanding of the natural world is likely to turn into an adult whose values you can respect, regardless of what they end up believing spiritually.

So, as an act of public service I want to point you at this free, high quality publication. Wood Wise comes from The Woodland Trust, you can download it here or subscribe to have it sent to your inbox – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/publications/2017/07/wood-wise-summer-2017/


Druids for trees

There is no separating Druidry from trees. It’s there in what little written history we have, with ancient Druids cutting mistletoe out of oaks. It’s there in every etymology attempt on the word itself. It’s there in our history, ancient and modern, of celebrating in groves.

Like many Druids, I am deeply disturbed by the way short term financial gain is always put ahead of the needs of the landscape. All too often when we want to build in the UK, tree loss will be dealt with by offset. As though a wood is nothing more than a replaceable cluster of trees. A wood is much more than its trees. It’s the fungi in the soil, the insect life, the undergrowth, the resident birds and mammals. Each wood is a unique interaction between precise local climate, underlying geology, and the bringing together of many different species. Ancient woodland, with its huge biodiversity, takes centuries to form. You can’t just recreate that by sticking a few saplings in what was previously a field.

Challenging developers means engaging with your local planning department to make a case for the trees. It helps if you can speak a language the planners recognise. To this end, The Woodland Trust has developed The Planner’s Manuel, which can be used in a number of ways.

It’s good information for activists to use when talking to planners.

If your area is developing a local plan, you can use this to find ways to get tree protection into that plan.

There’s also the possibility of getting in ahead of a problem and raising awareness of ancient woodland issues with your local planners before you need to protect a specific piece of land. There’s a lot to be said for being in first, and for having the space to raise awareness when you aren’t trying to fight a specific battle at the same time.

In the UK, planners working at a local level are usually are the ones making the decisions that can make or break the future of an ancient wood or veteran tree. Sometimes, as we’ve seen with fracking, local decisions can be overturned, but nonetheless, local is where to start with this. The Woodland Trust’s aim with the Planner’s Manuel is to educate and encourage planners to help them make the right decisions for our irreplaceable habitats.

I don’t know how useful this will be for anyone outside the UK, but it is a place to start if you don’t have other resources you can draw on.

Find out more here – http://bit.ly/PlannersGuide


Tree of the Year

At the moment, the Woodland Trust is doing a thing inviting people to name their tree of the year. More of that over here – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/tree-of-the-year/

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. Perhaps quite naturally, people tend to pick large, ancient, dramatic trees. I do have a couple of pretty large oaks in viable walking distance, but they’re in amongst other trees so impossible to photograph. There’s another oak on the canal that I like not least because it so often has a heron stood in it. Most of my favourite trees aren’t that dramatic.

I love the wild plum on the cycle path, with its cheery flowers in early spring and tart summer fruit. There’s a copper beech I really like on one of my routes, and a number of urban trees in town whose shade I welcome on hot days and who provide homes for creatures. Around my home there are ash trees – young and pushy, and none of them standout but it’s because of them that there are so many wild birds outside my windows.

I think the short of it is that there are many trees I like and none at the moment that have become special to me in a way that makes me want to say ‘this one tree here should be tree of the year’. But it may be that you do have a particular tree in mind and can jump in and tell everyone about it.


Pussy Willow

It’s pussy willow season – I know because the willows near my home have started to open their cute, fuzzy catkins. As a child I was deeply attracted to these, they invite fingers and are decidedly tactile to stroke, hence the name. Although saying that, similar willows are known as goat willow, and while I like goats, they don’t inspire fondling in the same way!

There are lots of kinds of willow out there, and to make matters more complicated, willows like to hybridize.

Properly, the pussy willow is the grey willow, and the image (borrowed from The Woodland Trust) shows it moving from the fluffy grey stage to the yellow flower stage.

I have on occasion – when people have been cutting willow and it would otherwise just die – brought pussy willow stems home and stuck them in glasses as cheerful spring decorations. They are charming to look at, but as the yellow flowers open, the willow sprinkles pollen… lots of pollen… everywhere. On the whole, better leave them where they were!

More on the Woodland Trust Page – http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/grey-willow/


Climate Change and green hearts

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The Climate Coalition’s latest ‘Show The Love’ campaign launched this February. Lots of people will be making, wearing and sharing green hearts today to show their love for nature. It’s not too late to get involved. We need to talk about climate change and the things we love which could be lost.

The UK has seen an incredible resurgence in recent years, with otters back from the brink, crane, boar and beaver making a return. But we’re also dealing with ash die-back, potential hedgehog extinction, and we don’t know what climate change will do to our landscape or the delicate ecosystems within it. Climate change means uncertainty. We’re seeing far more drama in our weather systems, and we don’t know what’s coming.

The UK has lost much of its wetland – but wetlands are a great way of managing excess water and storing carbon. We’re losing our highland habitats to grouse moors, where the heather is burned off so that grouse can eat the new shoots, and then themselves, be shot. This increases flooding risk for others. We’re seeing building on flood plains, still. We’re seeing a lack of political will to keep fossil fuels in the ground despite all of the evidence that we really can’t afford to keep burning them. Destructive and toxic fracking seems preferable to cleaner, greener energy.

If we wait for government and big business to lead the way, we could be waiting a long time – too long for vulnerable species. We have to do this ourselves. We can tackle climate change at a personal level. We can choose more sustainable ways of living, we can source our power from green energy companies, we can support charities who are leading the way. Here’s some suggestions if you’re in the UK:

The Woodland Trust

The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust

Local wildlife trusts

Green Electricity Marketplace


Green hearts show the love

“The Climate Coalition, a group of over a hundred organisations working together to call on government to commit to action on climate change. They are dedicated to limiting the impact of climate change on the people, places and life we love at home in the UK and around the world. It’s a positive movement to highlight just how much we all care about the challenges we and future generations face.” (taken from The Woodland Trust Website)

The Woodland Trust is part of the climate change coalition, and as a volunteer for The Woodland Trust, I’m spreading the word.

So, what can we, as ordinary individuals do to help? We can help build awareness, and momentum. The more people are visible in caring about climate change and its impact on both humans and our environment, the more scope there is to get people with power to make real change.

Create a green heart to wear, share or show. Whether its crochet, card or a drawing, share them on social media with #ShowTheLove and #TreeCharter. Get some inspiration and print-outs to use from the For the Love Of website.

Do you have a story or cherished memory of a tree? Could it be threatened by climate change? You can share your own story by writing it on a green heart and hanging it on a tree. Why not go one further? Tell us your story online by the end of February and help build a Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

I’ve taken some Green Hearts from the For The Love Of website to decorate this blog, but I mean to make some of my own as well… watch this space!


How to be an activist

With the world as it is right now, we need as many people as possible involved in activism, but we also need to do it well. Badly handled activism can put people off a cause. Worse, it can emotionally undermine people so they feel powerless and unable to keep contributing. Activism done well lifts and inspires people so that they want to get involved, and stay involved, and know that they can make real change.

Shock tactics may grab attention, but after a while they create apathy. There’s only so many abuse images a person can take, and the kind of activism that shows ghastly suffering – human and animal – can desensitise. It is tempting to use powerful images to get an important issue across, but the cumulative effect is that we all end up tuning stuff out just to cope, or pulling away to protect ourselves. Show me a live, happy dolphin and tell me it needs my help and I’ll go sign the petition. Tell me in words what the problem is, and keep those words bearable.

It’s also easy to fall into habits of blaming and shaming, trying to induce guilt to make people act. This can have a short term impact but over the longer term it demoralises people. The worst thing to do is take people who showed up wanting to help, and have picking holes in their choices be the main focus of the activism. Allies you don’t perfectly agree with are far more valuable than no allies, and infinitely more useful than enemies. Willingness to work with people who are not like us can be key – it was, after all, the otter hunters who first raised the issue of dwindling otter numbers in the UK some decades ago.

One of the reasons I love volunteering for The Woodland Trust, is that it’s all about soft activism and encouraging people. I’ve been a member for many years. They regularly send me news about their work, photos of landscapes they’ve bought and saved, and requests for funds for the next projects. I find it uplifting. We don’t win everything, we don’t save everything, but by focusing most on the better news, it’s easier to stay engaged. I know that my support for them makes a difference, so rather than getting ground down by what’s wrong, I get uplifted by the wins.

Activism needs to be underpinned by the idea that we can make a difference – because we can, but if we don’t believe that we’re not going to get very far. We need to stay hopeful, stay inspired, stay energised, and morale is key here. There will be lots of times when we have to talk about bloody awful things, but the focus has to be on what can be done, and how, rather than just hand wringing. We can change everything, if we help each other to do it.


Osiers in winter

During the winter months, osier willows become my favourite tree. While for most trees, leaf fall means a loss of colour and bark is grey, or brown, or just dark looking against the winter skies, osiers catch fire. The fine twigs on this willow are a brilliant, orangey colour, so when everything else is looking sad and drab, these trees are vibrant and cheering.

I find during the winter that lack of colour can really get to me, so finding the wonderful colours of these willows always gives me a big lift.

Osier willows are popular for pollarding and coppicing. With a pollard, you cut the tree somewhere up the trunk to get a lot of fine growth, as with the photo. Coppicing is at ground level. Once you’ve started pollarding a tree, you have to keep doing it or the weight of the growth will tear the trunk apart. It tends to be willows and hazels that are pollarded and coppiced for the very usable material this produces. As the age a tree can get to is to a large extent limited by its size, this kind of cutting can increase the life expectancy of the tree. Trees that have been cut in this way will keep producing new material year on year, so it’s quite a sustainable way of doing things.

 

 

For all tree things, visit http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/ – which was also the source for this osier image.