Tree Wardens prove a growing presence in UK towns and cities

Tree Wardens prove a growing presence in UK towns and cities

National Tree Week, originally a response to the dramatic loss of trees from Dutch elm disease, took on new significance in 1987 when the Great Storm destroyed 15 million more across southern and eastern England.

Although woodlands proved good at regenerating themselves naturally, it was a different matter for gardens, school grounds, streets, parks and other public green spaces. To get more trees where people live, work or go to school, it’s often necessary to plant them – and that’s where this annual winter festival comes into its own.

As the UK’s largest celebration of trees and woods, The Tree Council’s National Tree Week  – from 21 November to 2 December – highlights the benefits trees bring to a community. So it’s no surprise that St Albans District Council has chosen 27 November to launch Hertfordshire’s third urban community-based network of volunteer Tree Wardens – with a fourth, Dacorum to follow soon. They will join the 138 other local networks in town and countryside across the UK that form the national Tree Warden Scheme.

The Tree Council started the scheme in the aftermath of that Great Storm of 20 years ago, which highlighted the value of local volunteer tree champions. With support from National Grid, this highly motivated army has grown to nearly 8,000.

It now includes increasing numbers of urban volunteers, as The Tree Council – backed by additional funding from Communities and Local Government – works with local authorities and others to develop more networks in towns and cities. Newport, Plymouth, Torbay, Wakefield, Walsall, Manchester and Welwyn Hatfield are among the newest.

“Tree Wardens are doing a really great job, volunteering their time and energy to protect and promote trees in our towns and cities,” said Baroness Andrews, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at Communities and Local Government.

A recent survey revealed that Tree Wardens have doubled the proportion of time spent checking Tree Preservation Orders are not violated. This, together with monitoring planning applications and felling licences, amounts to 10 per cent of the 2 million volunteer hours a year they collectively devote to trees.

“We know from talking to Tree Wardens that there is growing dismay about what has been dubbed ‘the chainsaw massacre’ – the tendency to fell trees that some people perceive as a nuisance, dangerous or potentially damaging to buildings,” said Margaret Lipscombe, The Tree Council’s Director of Urban Programmes. “So often this is not the case, but the trees get cut down anyway. The monitoring carried out by Tree Wardens is extremely valuable.”

For National Tree Week events and more about Tree Wardening, visit

First published in CJS Focus on Trees and Hedges in association with The Tree Council, for National Tree Week on 19 November 2007