‘I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree’ As the line from the famous Joyce Kilmer poem suggests, most people can agree that there are few things as magnificent in nature, than trees.
From majestic red horse chestnuts burning with colour, to wondrous willows; white lilacs coated in delicate blossom and mulberries bursting with fruit.
All of them can be found on the streets where we live, creating vital green lungs in urban areas.
And in this time of austerity when local authorities have to prioritise where they spend their over-stretched resources, fortunately there are people who make sure that they are well cared for.
Across the area volunteer tree wardens plant, nurture and campaign to protect the oaks, ash, poplars and cedars within our midst. Whether they are in parks, roads, or along the seashore, they record and monitor their health – from the tiniest saplings to ancient oaks.
Overseen by The Tree Council, a national charity formed in 1973, tree wardens look after the trees on their doorstep.
The volunteer Tree Warden Scheme began in 1990 as a national force of local tree champions dedicated to their communities' trees – in town, city or countryside.
In Emsworth the 12-strong group of volunteers was founded 15 years ago.
Brendan Gibb-Gray is a founding member. He says: ‘Over the years we have planted many trees in the public areas of Emsworth, including Horndean Road and Hollybank recreation grounds.
‘In addition we work with the children at Emsworth Primary School encouraging them to collect and plant tree seeds and watch them grow.
‘In 2012 we were involved in the planning of a 42-acre open space – now know as Hampshire Farm Meadow – at Redland Grange, a 250 new home development between Emsworth and Westbourne.
‘In the centre of the meadow we organised the planting of a one acre of saplings that included beech, oaks, holly field maple and other native varieties.
‘This small copse is now developing well.
‘It’s a great joy to be able to say that those who went before us have left a wonderful legacy and tree wardens wish to ensure we maintain this good work at a time when the natural environment is under so much threat.’
The members have put together a fantastic tree trail detailing the town’s wonderful specimens.
Ann Jolly became a member of the group when she retired and says she derives a huge amount of pleasure from protecting and nurturing trees.
‘We need trees both aesthetically and for what they do for the environment. They purify the air’ says Ann.
‘There are two arborists for the area but their concerns are for public safety so if they see trees with potential problems their priority would be to protect people.
‘Our priority might be trying to maintain the tree, to keep it healthy so it’s not at risk.’
As well as trees, the tree wardens also care for hedges – some of which are ancient – as they are becoming more and more important in the battle against pollution.
Ann says the tree trail book is a way of highlighting trees in the public realm and encouraging people to value and appreciate them.
‘Sadly, we are losing more trees than we’re managing to plant’, she adds with a sigh.
‘We’re hoping the book will widen the routes people take to see trees. The shore is lovely but it might just open people’s eyes to what’s in little side roads, in Brook Meadow.
‘And there are some quite amazing trees in gardens that butt the street. They can be seen from footpaths.’
The Emsworth tree trail books can be found in Bookends and Driftwood Cafe.
Pauline Powell founded Portsmouth and Southsea Tree Wardens in 2010. It has 30 members.
She says the work of the tree wardens is vital even though Portsmouth City Council has a robust green infrastructure plan in place.
‘Trees absorb the noxious gasses and give out oxygen, so that can’t be bad, can it?’ says Pauline, matter-of-factly. They act like the lungs of the planet’.
Pauline and her team have planted hundreds of trees across the city. She says: ‘We have been very concerned with planting fruit trees in the city for the last season.
‘We planted many trees thanks to Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan’s campaign to mark 100 years of women’s suffrage.
‘Some 25 fruit trees and a fruiting hedge were planted around The Somerstown Hub by volunteers, in addition to the 50 fruit trees planted in Landport and Buckland along the Charles Dickens Orchard Trail.
‘A careful ongoing maintenance programme will ensure that losses are kept to a minimum, while nectar and pollen from the blossom will feed the pollinating insects while they are doing their job.’
Children of all ages and indeed adults are welcome to pick the fruit and the vision is that subsequent generations will also benefit.
This planting is the second in the series of a planned five year programme extending to other areas of the city and schools. A fruiting hedge and tree pack is being developed for schools, adventure playgrounds and community centres.
The Portsmouth and Southsea group have also put together a tree trail which can be picked up at city green fairs and through their website.
You can join a group even if you do not have green fingers, ‘You don’t need a lot of tree knowledge but you do need a lot of enthusiasm’, beams Pauline.
Become a tree warden and protect your local trees
Whether your passion is about getting your hands dirty planting trees, working with your local community, or simply being the eyes, ears and voice for the trees down your street, then you may have what it takes to be a tree warden.
It enables the public to play an active role in conserving and enhancing the trees and woods that you see and enjoy in your community every day.
The Havant, Emsworth, Portsmouth and Southsea groups are particularly active.
If there isn’t a group in your area, why not consider setting one up?
You do not need to make a huge commitment – every little helps.
To find a group in your area go to treecouncil.org.uk.
Visit portsmouthtree.org.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org.