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Charting new territory for our trees and woods

CPRE staff at the charter street art on London's Southbank CPRE staff at the charter street art on London's Southbank Photo: © CPRE

Trees, and often woods, are the ever changing backdrops to our daily lives.

Emma Marrington blogAs the years pass and the seasons change, our trees and woodlands are a constant presence – connecting us to the past, but making our lives better now and into the future.

I was out in the countryside a lot as a child and have clear tree-related memories. We visited Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire days after the big storm of 1987 and I was fascinated by the huge roots of trees that had been blown down. I also remember a particular veteran tree there that was so old that it was hollow inside (and you could stand in it!). Then there were the years when I would go youth hostelling with my Mum for a weekend or a couple of weeks over summer. We’d go to all sorts of places such as the Forest of Dean, the Lake District and the Surrey Hills – all places that have generated memories of trees and woodlands. They were what made each place different, what gave character to that landscape.

As an organisation that wants a better future for our landscapes, it’s only natural for CPRE to support the Woodland Trust’s call for a new ‘Charter for Trees, Woods and People’. The charter’s ambition is to place trees at the centre of national decision making and back at the heart of our lives and communities. But instead of writing a charter based on what the Woodland Trust thinks, they want to gather stories about what trees mean to you. These stories will illustrate the true meaning and value of our trees to us as a nation.

Many of you will remember the public outcry when the Government wanted to sell off our public forests or will have been outraged when a development led to local trees being removed. This is why we’re supporting the charter campaign. We know that many trees are lost to development, such as new housing or road expansion, and we cannot afford to be complacent.

A recent Natural England survey found that there were 417 million visits to woodlands and forests between March 2014 and February 20151. But the value of trees and woods goes beyond just the aesthetics and our attachments to them. They provide us with cleaner air and water, act as natural flood defences and provide a home to much of our wildlife.

Investing in the future of our trees and woods is vital – the Natural Capital Committee calculate that planting up to an extra 250,000 hectares of woodland near towns and cities can generate net societal benefits of more than £500 million per year2. We know the Government made a manifesto commitment to plant 11 million trees in the next few years and that it is developing a 25 year plan for our natural environment. There are also Government plans to increase England’s woodland cover from 10% to 12% by 2060, as long as there is ‘private investment in woodland creation’. Yet how will these fine words really make a difference on the ground? Later this year, CPRE will be re-launching our vision for what we want the countryside to look like in 2026 – and how we could get to ‘much more woodland, rich in wildlife’.

Developing a new charter for our trees, woods and people is a great opportunity to show how important trees and woodlands are, now and in the future. If you’d like to get involved visit

1 Natural England Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment annual survey results March 2014-February 2015
2 Natural Capital Committee The State of Natural Capital Third report (January 2015)

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We know that many trees are lost to development, such as new housing or road expansion, and we cannot afford to be complacent.

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