In the late 60s and early 70s, Dutch Elm Disease wiped out millions of trees throughout the country changing the landscape for ever. A promotional campaign at the time encouraged us to “plant a tree in ‘73” and then “plant one more in ‘74” to fill at least some of the gaps.
Today, there is much talk about tree planting to lock up carbon and combat climate change. But currently this seems to assume planting will be on a relatively large scale with the expectation on rural landowners to take the initiative. However, we can all play a part.
Significant trees have a tremendous impact on how our villages look. Imagine the view up and down Tisbury High Street without the cedar at the bottom of the hill or the Christmas tree outside the Benett. Or what the Avenue would look like without the line of limes along it. But even the longest living trees will die eventually and if others have not been planted during their lifetime as replacements, their loss is a shock and leaves us all worse off.
As well as old age, we lose trees, or parts of them for numerous reasons. Ash Die Back Disease means that we are likely to lose huge numbers of ash trees in the years ahead. Will they be replaced? Trees are lost to development, while others just get too big for their location. Felling is not always necessary though as a good tree surgeon can bring the tree back to an acceptable size and shape to flourish for many more years.
Unfortunately, it is easy to have double standards on trees. We like to see them in the view but don’t want them to block our view. We like to see blossom, berries, and autumn leaf colour (ideally on someone else’s land or garden) but might not want seeds, dead flowers and leaves on our cars and gardens or noisy birds disturbing our sleep in spring.
Planting a tree is a vote of confidence in the future. The people who planted the largest trees we see around us never lived to see them in their prime as we do. By the time trees planted today reach maturity our successors may find their shade particularly welcome in a warming world.
So as autumn approaches, is there scope to plant more trees around the village? Plant a tree in ’23? Or can we find room in our gardens? Some species never grow to a great size and can be controlled but still have a contribution to make. If we already have trees around us, let’s look after them for everyone’s benefit now and in the future. Trimming, lopping, and felling without adequate replacement will inevitably leave future generations the poorer for their loss.
Photo: Avocets (Izzy Fry)
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