Cast your vote in the tree election!

GREEN Jackie Baynes walks among the sycamores and elms at Ladies' Miles on Southsea Common
GREEN Jackie Baynes walks among the sycamores and elms at Ladies' Miles on Southsea Common

From broken bones to new beginnings

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Do the pale pink flowers of the cherry blossom tree fill you with joy on a spring morning?

Or are you more likely to admire the sturdy trunk and lush green foliage of the classic English oak?

If you are a city dweller and appreciate the plant life around you, then Portsmouth and Southsea’s tree wardens want to hear from you.

They are asking residents to take a look at the trees lining pavements, gracing parks or even standing proud in their back gardens and vote for their favourites.

Your tree may be particularly old or big for its species or it may have wildlife or landscape value. It could have been the centre of great events or linked to a famous person. It could even be rare.

Or it might be unremarkable to some but a personal favourite of yours.

‘You could pick something big and famous like the Den Haag Elm on Southsea Common,’ says Pauline Powell, co-ordinator and fundraiser of Portsmouth and Southsea Tree Wardens.

‘Or it could be something unusual or just nice. One of my favourites is a damson tree growing out of the pavement near the Coach and Horses in Hilsea. It’s a strange place for it for one thing. And it has a wonderful blossom.’

Jackie Baynes, a member of the Tree Wardens committee, identifies her favourite as a weeping white-blossomed cherry tree at the traffic island at the junction of St Michael’s Road and Anglesea Road.

She says: ‘It’s beautiful but if you want to see it in blossom, you have about two and half weeks in which to catch it.’

Entries will be judged by a panel of experts and the results will be featured in a booklet of Portsmouth’s favourite trees. Twelve of these may also end up in a calendar.

The aim of the tree election is the same as the goal of the wardens – to get people noticing and appreciating city plant life.

‘It’s not that people aren’t bothered about trees but I think most would admit that they take them for granted a little bit. Although I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who know more about trees than myself,’ says Jackie. ‘But for a lot of people it’s very easy to walk past trees without giving them a second thought. And it isn’t until something happens to threaten them, that they sit up and take notice.’

In our hectic lives we might not take enough time to stop and contemplate the myriad leaf shapes and shades of the different tree species, or even find out their names. But most people would agree that our cities and towns would be bleak places without our silent leafy friends.

‘With all the pink blossoms and green foliage at the moment, it would be hard for anyone to walk around the city and think doesn’t that look lovely,’ says Jackie. ‘Trees lift our spirits to a great extent.’

They also create a better environment by absorbing excess moisture and pollutants, supporting wildlife and providing shade in the summer.

They even add value to your house. Most people would prefer to buy property in a tree-lined street rather than an environment of purely pavement and bricks.

Appreciating plant life is easy but finding out about the different species takes a little more effort. Many people would be astonished at the variety of trees we have in the city.

The wardens have published several tree trails listing a large number of species. In the Southsea Common area we have the Chinese maidenhair tree, the Turkish hazel, the native European silver birch, English oak, maritime pine and sycamore and the seasonally named Judas Tree, among many others.

The Portsmouth and Southsea Tree Wardens group was set up last year by Pauline to raise awareness and in turn encourage people to help protect and look after the city’s plant life.

The group, which is a member of the national Tree Council, publishes information, organises guided walks in the city and surrounding areas, conducts surveys, gives advice to other organisations and monitors the state of trees. The wardens have also planted a fruiting hedge in Hilsea as part of a nationwide Tree Council campaign.

One of its most recent leaflets is a Green Walk in Old Portsmouth, identifying and giving information about the vegetation in this historic part of the city.

The group’s work to raise awareness is important because there is a problem with saplings being broken. And apart from warning people against damage, the wardens hope to encourage people to actively look out for trees.

‘If there’s a hot summer for example and someone has one outside their house they could perhaps give it a bit of watering,’ says Jackie. ‘A lot of people think trees can cope in all kinds of conditions, but sometimes they need a bit of help.’

For now though, they’d like you to look around you – and cast your vote.

Nominate your favourite

Tree nominations should be submitted, together with a photograph (electronic or print), to Pauline Powell, 55 Amberley Road, Portsmouth, PO2 0TQ, who will arrange for judging to take place.

The closing date is December 31, 2011.

Fill in the application form at portsmouthsouthseatreewardens.co.nr

Portsmouth and Southsea Tree Wardens have several events lined up for the coming months.

They include a walk in the woods at Queen Elizabeth Country Park on May 22, stands at local fairs and the group’s open meeting at Monks Bar, in Old Portsmouth, on July 7. Anyone who wants to find out more about the group is welcome to attend.

For information on the wardens and their activities, leaflets and work, visit their website.

If you live in the Havant area and want more information about your local group, visit havantboroughtreewardens.org.uk

To find out about groups in other areas, visit the Tree Council at treecouncil.org.uk

Tree facts from the Woodland Trust

. Within five years many newly-planted trees will be at head height.

. Rotten trees are sometimes the healthiest – fungi eating the tree actually makes it stronger through symbiosis.

. A ten per cent increase in tree cover can lower city temperature by four degrees.

. The UK has the highest number of ancient trees anywhere in Europe.

. Half of ancient woodland in the UK has been destroyed or degraded since 1930.

. The oldest known tree in Europe is Scotland’s Fortingall Yew, which is more than 2000 years old.

. Some trees, such as the black poplar, have male and female species.