How volunteer tree champions make a difference
From Aberdeen to Guernsey, Lowestoft to Pembrokeshire, there’s a national force of 8,000 volunteers championing local trees – in town, city and countryside. In fact, they’re the eyes and ears for trees in their communities.
These highly motivated individuals are all part of Britain’s Tree Warden Scheme which is proving a very effective way to engage communities in their local environment.
The Tree Council, which launched the scheme in 1990, sees Tree Wardens as a key part of its community action programme that includes National Tree Week, Seed Gathering Season and Walk in the Woods as well as the annual Tree Care Campaign to get better care for all trees. The Council is an umbrella body for organisations working together for trees and its goal is to make trees matter to everyone.
Tree Wardens are very much in the vanguard of this. Their core activities include planting and caring for trees in their neighbourhoods and encouraging others – including schoolchildren – to value them; surveying local trees and gathering information about them; and providing early warning of threats to trees. As volunteers, they work closely with professionals, such as the tree officers or other local authority colleagues who co-ordinate the local network and are key to the success of the scheme.
The Tree Council co-ordinates its Tree Warden Scheme in partnership with National Grid and backed by Communities and Local Government (CLG). It also works with local authorities, voluntary organisations, parish councils and local partnerships to set up and develop local Tree Warden networks as part of the national scheme.
As Jon Stokes, one of The Tree Council team which co-ordinates the Tree Warden Scheme nationally, points out: "Setting up a Tree Warden network is a very good way to harness local enthusiasm for a community's trees in order to achieve really useful volunteer action for the environment – rural or urban. We’re ready and able to help.”
There are now Tree Wardens in communities across a third of Britain, but that still leaves plenty of scope for many more of these volunteer tree champions. So the Tree Council welcomes enquiries from local authorities and other organisations interested in creating new networks.
It can offer support and resources for setting up, developing and maintaining a local network and its staff can help with training Tree Wardens. Thanks to funding from National Grid and CLG, The Tree Council publishes free material for Tree Wardens, including a full-colour newsletter and a regularly updated handbook of practical advice. There are also annual regional forums at which Tree Wardens can get inspiration from experts onhow topical issues can be translated into action with and for their local communities.
Whether you want to set up a new local network or to volunteer as a Tree Warden in an existing one, visit www.treecouncil.org.uk to find out more.