Trees and woods offer great potential for rebuilding our wider relationship with nature, reinforcing local identity and sustaining wildlife. We need more trees to lock up carbon to ameliorate the effects of climate change, to help shade our towns and cities, to bring shelter and beauty to places, and we need a national debate about how, where and when this is going to happen.
Living with Trees is a powerful call for more trees in our lives. The book will be a cornucopia of artwork, useful information, poetry and new ideas: a book that is both practical and inspirational. It aims to re-engage individuals and communities with their local trees and woods. Drawing on the many inspiring ways that people around the UK are redefining their relationship with trees and woods in the 21st century, it demonstrates how caring for trees and woods can enhance local biodiversity alongside community cohesion and well-being.
The book has been several years in the making. With the support of the Woodland Trust, Trees for Cities and donations, Common Ground commissioned Robin Walter, a forester of 30 years, to research and write the text. With the final draft of this beautiful book almost finished, we need extra support to cover the costs of finalising the design and printing in the UK, in full colour and on recycled papers.
The upsurge of action early in 2011 to stop the sell off of Forestry Commission land demonstrated widespread interest in access to wooded landscapes. Since then, much good work has been done to sustain this public interest and provide an opportunity for rethinking our relationship with woods, notably by organisations such as the Woodland Trust, the National Association for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Welsh National Parks, Community Woodlands Association, Plunkett Foundation, Llais y Goedwig (Community Woodlands), the National Trust, Grown in Britain, the Sylva Foundation, Wildlife Trusts, progressive town councils and the Forestry Commission (especially the groundbreaking approaches to land reform and support for community forestry in Scotland). There are many initiatives and innovative projects which need celebration, whether they are focussed on planting and caring for trees, or aimed at stimulating education, improved well-being, social inclusion or economic equality.
The problems we face are varied. Domestically, ash dieback and other diseases and threats are on the increase. Often, the wrong sort of trees are often planted in inappropriate places, with lack of after care bringing loss and more carbon emission. And not everybody has the access or confidence to enjoy wooded landscapes. There is often scepticism about living close to big trees, indeed local authorities – London, Sheffield, etc. – often favour cutting trees down or the planting of small ornamental trees in our streets where once lofty trees were welcome. We import too many wood products and send great amounts to landfill that could be reused or recycled. Ancient woodland, community orchards and allotments are always under pressure from developers and councils for more car parks, quarries or housing, often using outdated arguments and false promises about economic growth.
Yet there is much to be hopeful about. Community woodland and social forestry initiatives are spreading all over the country at the moment. Wildlife conservation, wood fuel and timber for joinery are no longer the only reasons people are living closer to trees. Care in the community for the elderly, apprenticeships for the young, forest allotments, cooperative fuel initiatives, artistic practice, architectural education, Forest School, woodland permaculture: these are just some of the ways that individuals and communities all over the country are using woodlands today, improving biodiversity, creating new community spaces and bringing woodlands back into the everyday life of more people. This book will celebrate those people and offer their examples as inspiration to others.
ABOUT COMMON GROUND
Common Ground is an arts and environmental charity working locally and nationally to seek imaginative ways to celebrate the intimate connections communities have with the wildlife and historic landscapes on their doorstep. Since 1986, it has explored the natural and cultural value of trees with many collaborators and with exhibitions, newspapers, books and films. In the 1990, Common Ground started Apple Day, a campaign to celebrate apple varieties and our shared apple heritage, which was also intent on saving orchards from becoming building plots and encouraging the national spread of Community Orchards around the country. Common Ground also initiated Tree Dressing Day, which, from 1990 has inspired hundreds of events across the country - even as far afield as Finland and Japan.
Living with Trees builds upon Common Ground’s many previous books on trees and woods, including In a Nutshell (1989), an anthology of poetry Trees be Company (1990), Community Orchards Handbook (2008) and Arboreal (2016), as well as its free newspaper projects PULP! (1988) and LEAF! (2016-2017).
Robin Walter was a woodland officer for the Woodland Trust until 2010, when he became an independent forester. He is supported in his research by David Dixon (Specialist Advisor for Plunkett Foundation’s ‘Making Local Woods Work’ project) and Neil Sinden (who wrote In A Nutshell and is Director of CPRE London). The book will be illustrated throughout with artwork from the Common Ground archive, including work by Alice Pattullo, Tom Frost, James Ravilious, Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash and Ellie Davies. The book is being designed and edited by Adrian Cooper (editor/designer of Arboreal and LEAF!), and Little Toller is thrilled to be publishing the book with a foreword by Richard Mabey in August 2019.
Many thanks to the Woodland Trust, Trees for Cities and Martin Stanley who have supported the researching and writing of Living with Trees.