Woodland wonders: five ways to feel more connected to trees
It’s 50 years since the ‘Plant a Tree in 73’ campaign from which National Tree Week was born. Half a decade later, trees are just as vital to the health and vitality of the planet, and their importance is still honoured by the UK’s largest annual tree celebration.
This year’s slogan is ‘Grow a Tree in 23’, but even if you’ve not got green fingers, here’s how you might deepen your connection with trees…
1. Grow a tree
Starting with the obvious! This year’s National Tree Week campaign urges us to grow a tree, whether in our garden, allotment, school or local green space. You might take part in an organised tree planting event, or decide to host your own. There are tons of resources and ideas on the Tree Council website.
2. Celebrate trees
Trees are fundamental to life on earth (and we’ve got 20 facts to prove it), but have you ever stopped to celebrate these wonders of the wild world? You might throw your very own tree party (green foliage decorations mandatory!), or express your gratitude on a smaller scale by simply thanking the trees in your local area for their presence.
Wondering how to make this a regular practice? Find a ‘sit spot’ near a favourite tree, and return to this place regularly – daily or weekly work well – to simply sit and observe, to notice the seasonal changes and listen. Not only will it help you to value the trees that surround you, practices like this can support and uplift your mental health and wellbeing.
3. Discover tree folklore
Do you have a favourite species of tree? Is there one you feel drawn to more than others? There’s a whole host of arboreal stories and folklore that can help bring a little magic and myth into your relationship with trees.
As the Winter Solstice approaches, for instance, we have the story of the Oak King and the Holly King. When the year reaches its darkest point, the Holly King – who has reigned over the waning half of the year since the Summer Solstice back in June – hands over his crown to the Oak King, who will reign over the next six months of the year, welcoming the rebirth of the sun and the waxing of the year. It is a reminder that the light is returning (however slowly) and that the strength and courage of the oak can sustain us through midwinter into the emerging light of the year.
4. Keep a tree diary
Choose a tree that you see on a regular basis and keep a diary noting down what you can see each week. From the first chartreuse leaves in early spring, to beautiful fragrant blossoms, from providing a home for insects, to scampering squirrels in autumn, note down, draw or take photographs of these changes. It’s a wonderful way to feel more connected, and to stay tuned in to how the seasons evolve year on year.
5. Protect trees
Trees are often felled to make way for new construction projects or transport links, and losing them can be catastrophic to the local environment and ecosystems. But there are things we can do to help protect the trees in our area. Friends of the Earth have some helpful tips.
You might also be interested in
If you’re want to find out more about trees and their place in the countryside, check out the treeumphant vision: poet and tree champion Maureen Morant explains how trees and green spaces have been part of her own personal history. You can also boost your tree knowledge by learning to recognise and identify tree shapes in the winter and explore this inspirational range of community woodland projects.
About the author
Eleanor Cheetham is a writer and teacher based in Lincolnshire, forever inspired by seasonal change and the folklore and stories of the land.