Robin Walter came to give our last talk of 2021 and we had a mix of people listening in the Victoria Hall and on Zoom. Robin shared photos from his new book “Living with trees” and his experience over the last 30 years of working for organisations dedicated to the conservation of trees and biodiversity.
A striking statistic was that 13% of the UK now has forest cover, compared to 40% average coverage across countries in Europe, with Finland being a stand-out at 70%. Of course, many countries in Europe cover large areas, with differing population densities and we are a small island with an historic industrial growth, but it strikes home how much we differ.
It is estimated that during the Roman period we were at 20% and our lowest point was after the First World War. The Forestry Commission was then set up in 1919 to address the parlous state of our 4.7% forest cover. A particular strategy after WW2 was to put in conifer plantations on old woodland sites so that they could hold both deciduous and spruce. For instance, at Kingsettle Wood near Shaftesbury, the pines can now gradually be removed to let in more light around the ash and the ground cover can expand.
Robin is a member of the Shaftesbury Tree Group which prepared The Town Tree Plan for 2020-25. It is active in educating the community about their glorious trees and created a map so that people can self-navigate or go on arranged walking tours. 60 people turned up for their inaugural walk! The striking Swedish whitebeam opposite the Abbey on Park Walk draws a lot of attention.
The government has set a target to reach 19% UK woodland cover by 2050. As Robin encouraged, it is up to whole communities to get together and talk about what they want and work with local landowners and councils to come to agreement on plans for the future. We were pleased to share the news that this Sunday, Debbie Carter was organising a group of volunteers to plant trees from the Woodland Trust, as part of Tisbury’s contribution to the ‘treebilee’, the Queen’s Green Canopy planting initiative created to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
Photo: Avocets (Izzy Fry)
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