Tree charter takes root

On November 6 the new Charter for Trees, Woods and People was formally launched at Lincoln Castle, site of one of only two remaining copies of the 1217 Charter of the Forest.

Two years in the making, rooted in more than 60,000 stories from people across the UK, and crafted by more than 70 organisations in collaboration, this really has been a labour of love.

The charter sets out 10 principles for a society in which people and trees can stand stronger together. It highlights all the vital things that trees and woods do for us, and what we need to do if we want to continue to enjoy these benefits and for future generations to have healthy trees and woods in their lives and landscapes.

The final wording of the charter principles was drafted by Fiona Stafford, bestselling author of The Long, Long Life of Trees. The artwork was created using oak gall ink – just like the 1217 charter – by calligrapher Patricia Lovett.

The 1217 charter set out the rights all free men should have to benefit from the natural resources of the landscape even if it was a Royal Forest. These included ‘pannage’ (collecting acorns or beech nuts for pigs), ‘estover’ (collecting firewood) and even some limited rights to hunt.

The charter calls for a national Tree Charter Day each year when the nation’s progress can be reviewed and the connection between trees and people celebrated to keep it at the forefront of public consciousness

Nowadays our relationship with trees and woods is very different, but no less important. Trees improve our air quality, beautify our landscapes, support our mental health, help in the fight against pollution and climate change, and provide a host of opportunities for livelihoods and creative pursuits.

The issues that threaten our access to these benefits are different too. We are not planting enough for the future, not managing what we have to ensure it survive for future generations, and failing to protect historic landscapes and habitats from development, diseases and pests.

Many of our most important historic landscapes are defined by trees, and the impact of their loss would be devastating to their appearance, health, habitat value and heritage.

The tree charter recognises the cultural and ecological value of historic tree features such as ancient woodland, established hedgerows, wood pasture, memorial trees, landscaped gardens and orchards, and calls for greater protection and sensitive management to ensure their future.

The charter also calls for a national Tree Charter Day each year when the nation’s progress can be reviewed and the connection between trees and people celebrated to keep it at the forefront of public consciousness. This will be the last Saturday of November each year – falling within the Tree Council’s National Tree Week. We can all do our bit to keep trees at the centre of society!

Read the charter and sign your name to show your support for the principles: treecharter.uk

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Matt Larsen-Daw

Matt Larsen-Daw

Project Lead, the Woodland Trust

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