Tree Charter Branches: Sowing seeds of change

What a journey! It’s been nearly two years since we announced our plan to create a Charter for Trees, Woods and People, and called for champions across the UK to help define the charter and lead society in celebrating and protecting our precious trees and woods. On 6 November, the Tree Charter was finally launched at Lincoln Castle. We simply could not have reached this historic milestone without our network of grassroots Tree Charter Branches.

Around the launch of the Tree Charter campaign in January 2016, we ran five Charter Champion orientation days around the UK to build the foundations of a network of community champions that would ensure the charter was shaped and strengthened from the grassroots. The 120 curious individuals who took part were the seeds of what has become a huge forest of community groups – or Charter Branches – who have truly been the roots of the Tree Charter.

The launch of the Tree Charter at Lincoln Castle earlier this month (Photo: Rob Fraser)
The launch of the Tree Charter at Lincoln Castle earlier this month (Photo: Rob Fraser)

Grassroots groups

Among the first Charter Branches to sign up were Tottenham Trees, who are still going strong after two years of incredible work connecting people and trees. This Sunday 3 December they have a whole day of tree celebration activities planned for National Tree Week. 

Inspired by Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, Tottenham Trees have been engaging Londoners with the charter through events, guided walks and pop-up stands (Photo: Tottenham Trees)
Inspired by Wangari Maathai, founder of the Green Belt Movement, Tottenham Trees have been engaging Londoners with the charter through events, guided walks and pop-up stands (Photo: Tottenham Trees)

Other Charter Branches have signed up only in the past few months but are already doing incredible things to get people thinking, talking and taking action around trees and woods. Street Tree ART Sheffield (STARTS) has brought people from all walks of life in Sheffield together to create art depicting street trees that are threatened with felling as part of council ‘highway improvement’ plans. An exhibition for National Tree Week is up right now at Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield, including a huge body of works depicting First World War Memorial Trees on Western Road that are among those threatened. These diverse artworks were created in one day of mass painting by hundreds of Sheffield residents, under the guidance of renowned artist Dan Llewelyn Hall.

Sheffield Woodland Connections lead a guided walk of ancient woodland in the area, highlighting the importance of this rare habitat (Photo: Sheffield Woodland Connections)
Sheffield Woodland Connections lead a guided walk of ancient woodland in the area, highlighting the importance of this rare habitat (Photo: Sheffield Woodland Connections)

Without the incredible energy and commitment of Charter Branches, the Tree Charter would simply not have happened. More than 60,000 ‘tree stories’ were gathered across the UK in 2016 – many at local community events led by Charter Branches. These stories revealed the important role that trees play in the lives of people in 21st Century society, and analysis of these stories was used to define the 10 Tree Charter Principles.

Making the Tree Charter count

Since announcing the 10 Principles, the focus of Charter Branches has been to build support for the Tree Charter to ensure that it has the weight it needs for decision makers to take note and take actions that allow people and trees to benefit each other. Since March 2017, more than 125,000 signatures from adults and leaf prints from young people have been gathered in support of the Tree Charter at village fetes, visitor centres, schools, planting events, parish council meetings and local tree celebration events. This has ensured that the Tree Charter has reached people who might never have come across it online but agree that trees and woods should be recognised and supported as an integral part of UK society.

As the word has spread about the Tree Charter, so the Charter Branch network has grown and strengthened. There are now more than 500, representing communities in every corner of the UK, and including campaigning groups, schools, community woodland groups, parish and town councils, artist collectives, tree warden groups and more.

The future for Charter Branches

Charter Branches have made the Tree Charter what it is, and given it the strength to make real impact in society. Their role is not coming to an end with the launch of the charter, however. This grassroots movement for trees is needed more than ever to make the principles expressed in the charter a reality. This means shaping local policies to support the role of trees, and educating and informing people about the value of trees and what they can do as individuals to stand up for trees.

In spring 2018 the Charter Branch network will be refreshed with new resources and guidance from the Woodland Trust and other organisations involved in driving forward the legacy of the Tree Charter. The Tree Charter is a beautiful acorn that has taken root thanks to the ground being well prepared by our Charter Branches, but it will need careful nurturing and protection over the years ahead to ensure it continues to grow into a strong support for people and trees in the future.

Information about the next stage for Charter Branches will appear on treecharter.uk in 2018. To register to join the network now, please complete and return this form to treecharter@woodlandtrust.org.uk.

Celebrate and protect trees this National Tree Week

Sign the Charter