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Halstead 21st Century Group

Thu 25th Nov 2021: Stand up for trees!

How on earth would we have got to the 21st century without trees?  Is there anything that matches them for their sheer utility from pre-history up till now?  I mean, just how many uses of trees can you think of throughout the ages? Go on - I challenge you. 

The human relationship with trees has largely been a very practical one, but the fabrication of alternative products has diminished that.  They were once our main source of heating and fuel for cooking, they’re rarely used in ship-building, most houses are made of bricks and mortar, while wooden carts and carriages have largely been replaced by metal and rubber.

But let's not forget the more romantic qualities of trees. They have always been essential features of our landscapes and even folklore. The English Oak was sacred to ancient druids, it became emblematic of the strong and steadfast British character, and the Royal Oak, with its historic tale of hiding a monarch, is still a feature on many an English high street - including Halstead's.

Climate change and a critical loss of biodiversity have arrived, and trees are recognised as part of the solution. Allowing trees to simply be can: 

        Capture carbon

        Provide shade

        Provide essential habitats,

        Prevent flooding

        Reduce city temperature

        Reduce pollution

        Keep soil nutrient-rich

Our relationship with trees is changing and the awareness of trees' ecological significance has increased hugely over recent years. Perhaps the biggest change in our attitude towards trees has been since the onset of the pandemic and our growing appreciation of the natural world. We have learned that nature really is very good for us.

The Tree Council has run an annual celebration of trees since 1975. Scheduled to coincide with the start of the tree planting season, National Tree Week 2021 runs from Saturday 27 November to 5 December.  We’re not aware of anything running locally, but the Eco Colnes & Halstead group planted 73 carefully fostered saplings a couple of weeks ago. If planting a tree is on your 'to do' list, you'll find lots of help online from the Woodland Trust and the Tree Council to help make sure that the right trees are planted in the right place at the right time - including a free tree planting webinar.

In April 2021, the Woodland Trust reported a crisis. It found that the UK is one of the least wooded nations in Europe and our woodlands are faced with multiple threats, and with only 7% of native woodlands in good condition, those threats are serious. Tree planting is not enough. We need to protect those trees that we have. 

We’ve probably all heard of Tree Preservation Orders, but these are only applied because someone has actively chosen to protect specific trees. And trees in conservation areas have protection by virtue of being in an area of historic or architectural importance. However, the vast majority of mature trees are not protected in any way, hedgerows and younger trees in quantity can easily be removed before planning permission is even sought despite being such critical habitats.

So whether they’re ancient oaks or young saplings, trees are a vital part of our environment- but there just aren't enough of them and what there are need our help. They need champions.  There is so much that tree wardens can do, but Halstead, for example, hasn't had one for years now. You don't have to be an expert because help and training would be at hand, (you'd be one of a big team of 60 volunteers in the Braintree District), and most of all - you'll be standing up for our local trees.

By the way, we nominated this fine old oak on Sloe Lane to the Ancient Tree Inventory last year.

trees . landscapes . woodlands . planning . climate change . carbon . conservation area . natural heritage . habitats . biodiversity . hedgerows . well-being