‘Each tree is a world within itself, teeming with life.’ The UK’s charter for trees takes root

A charter that forms guiding principles for the protection and regeneration of the UK’s woodlands has attracted more than 130,000 signatures since its launch in November 2017

“A tree may be a village’s oldest inhabitant, a founding figure in a region’s identity, a natural monument in the nation’s story.”

This quote is from the Charter for Trees, Woods and People, which was launched at Lincoln Cathedral on 6 November 2017, the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest. Launched by the Woodland Trust with the support of more than 40 other organisations, it is hoped the document will become a focus for campaigning around better protection of the UK’s trees.

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More than 130,000 people have so far signed the charter which contains more than 60,000 ‘tree stories’ gathered from people of all backgrounds across the UK.

The UK has the lowest woodland cover in Europe and the vast majority of its irreplaceable ancient forests are unprotected by government legislation

Figures from the Forestry Commission show that the fewest trees were planted
 in 2016 of any year since records began in 1976, prompting the Woodland Trust to warn that England was “lapsing into deforestation”.

Clive Anderson, president of the Woodland Trust, speaking at the launch of the charter at Lincoln Castle

The UK has the lowest level of woodland cover in Europe, at just 13 per cent, and the vast majority of its irreplaceable ancient forests are unprotected by government legislation. Trees are facing threats on multiple fronts, from development pressures to climate change.

The charter will remain in the Lincolnshire Archive and can be signed online.

The 10 Tree Charter principles, from the Woodland Trust

Sustain landscapes rich in wildlife

Each tree is a world within itself, teeming with life. A fallen branch is a feast for beetles, fungal-rich woodland soil is a wildflower bed. A hedgerow is a living network, where a host of creatures share their home. Forests are full of opportunities for people, but their natural wealth is the wildlife. Our future good means thinking in the round, adapting plans to what is on the ground. New urban and transport projects should make routes for our native wildlife to move forward too. Take heed of nature’s needs.

Protect irreplaceable trees and woods

Ancient woods have been continuously wooded since before records started: they are living descendants from Britain’s prehistory. A tree may be a village’s oldest inhabitant, a founding figure in a region’s identity, a natural monument in the nation’s story. Thorn-bushes and hedgerows harbour our history. Old orchards are habitats for some of our rarest species and living museums of disappearing ways of life. A country that cares for its future cares for its past: we need laws and commitment to protect these irreplaceable natural treasures.

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Plant for the future

When we enjoy the company of a treasured tree or the beauty of a favourite wood we often owe thanks to those with the foresight and confidence to invest in the future. We must show that same generosity of spirit, that same sense of hope for the future, and plant more now. Line streets with living greenery, let trees allow shifting colour into every life. More orchards for communities, more hedges for wildlife, more forests for timber and jobs. Nurture people’s pride in their local trees and empower them to care for their future. Right tree, right place, bright future.

Celebrate the power of trees to inspire

Stories have always grown on trees. Artists are drawn to their intricacies. Woods are rooted in memories, but it’s the leaf mould of tales told that nourishes future growth. The poetry of trees is always living, for every older work sends out new shoots. We grow attached to trees in books and learn to look for them in life. We feel connected to trees we know and love to see them painted well. Celebrate Tree Charter Day each year to strengthen this cultural legacy and help our living traditions thrive.

Image: Alessio Lin

Recover health, hope and wellbeing with the help of trees

Peace grows quietly in tree-lined places, where bees, fresh scents and birdsong revive our jaded senses. Sprays of greenery ensure cleaner air and clearer minds, and fitter bodies, more inclined to take a walk or meet a friend. Spirits lift and stress recedes when we stroll through healing glades. Parks and woodlands keep us well and help to quell fears of illness, ageing, loss – we breathe more freely under trees. Healthcare and tree-care go hand in hand: harness the therapeutic power of trees.

Grow forests of opportunity and innovation

Forests, woods and trees all flourish under the stewardship of skilled professionals. Trees reward us with fuel for enterprise, craft and invention, green energy and fires. Consider the source of wooden products and choose the home-grown from well-managed forests. Teach the rising generation that with responsible management a wooded land is a thriving nation.

Image: Michael Kahl

Combat the threats to our habitats

Pests, diseases and climate change pose serious threats to our precious trees. Enlightened management of woods will help ensure their future health: planting strong seeds and saplings, selecting species suited to the site, keeping forests mixed in age and kind, regular thinning, combatting invasive plants, and controlling infections and pests at the earliest sign.

Tring Park in Herfordshire. Image: Philip Formby

Make trees accessible to all

Trees offer shared experience to every age, religion and race. In woods people can work together, sharing experiences and learning from each other and their natural surroundings. Those who no longer move with ease can still find pleasure among the trees. Cheerful voices ring through leaves, from makeshift pitches and games of make-believe. There should be room for us all beneath spreading canopies.

Image: Rob Mulally

Strengthen our landscapes with trees

From roots that bind and enrich the soil to leaves that shade and shelter, from locking carbon into timber and purifying air and water, trees make our landscapes better. Rising water swells and floods, so strengthen riverbanks with roots. Bare hills need trees to keep the soil stable, to slow the flow of nature’s deluge, to shelter sheep or shade the cattle. The right tree in the right place earns its keep again and again. As farmers and landowners benefit from woods, the country will be strengthened in the years ahead.

Image: Tim Schramm

Plan greener local landscapes

The trees that touch us most are those that live among us, along our street, in the local park, beside our school or place of work. Like us, they grow and change, need space to breathe and support to thrive. Trees give places their distinctive character. Local community networks have a vital role to play in caring for woods and trees. Trees provide long-lasting good, so well-informed planning reaps long-term rewards. Take guidance on planting, felling and replanting from skilled professionals. Good landscapes of the future depend on care for trees today.

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