Trees play a significant role in all our futures

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 December 2019

Guest columnist Kate Ponting, countryside learning officer at Clinton Estates. Picture: Matt Austin

Guest columnist Kate Ponting, countryside learning officer at Clinton Estates. Picture: Matt Austin

Matt Austin

Guest columnist Kate Ponting celebrates the role Clinton Estates has played in stemming the decline of forestry in Britain.

This week marks an important anniversary. December 8, 1919, saw planting of trees by Lord Clinton in Devon and Lord Lovat in Scotland marking the creation of the Forestry Commission, which stemmed the decline of forestry in Britain.

A hundred years ago change was needed to reverse the demands trench warfare had made on the nation's woodlands, where cover had been reduced to only 5 per cent of the countryside.

Since then, woodland cover has risen from 5 per cent to 10 per cent in England and 13 per cent for the UK.

East Devon's percentage is higher and Clinton Estates' holdings boasts 17 per cent woodland cover, a figure which is set to increase even further in years to come.

Although the initial driver for tree planting last century was to provide a timber resource to support any future war efforts, strategic objectives have changed over time.

In the 1990s, policy focus moved from productive forestry to the planting of native broadleaves for wildlife. In the following decade public recreation became increasingly important whilst in the last ten years the shift has refocused again, this time towards combating climate change and resilience to disease.

Growing trees sequesters carbon both in the branches, trunk and leaves and in the forest soil. Using timber products above high carbon products such as steel, cement, reduces emissions and is a renewable resource.

In Exmouth last month, Exmouth Tree Project, brought landowners, community and wildlife organisations, schools and individual gardeners together to celebrate trees, recognising the part they play at a global, local and individual scale.

Attendees were asked to scope, plan, and dream what we might do for trees, hedges and green spaces in the town and what the treescapes of Exmouth might become.

Whatever uncertainty we face as a nation, trees are once again rising up the political agenda as they will have a significant role to play in all our futures.

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