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Brewing up a storm for street trees

Ever since my father handed me a shiny acorn as a child and I helped it grow in a pot in the garden, I’ve felt protective towards trees. And from little acorns mighty ideas grow.

We love street trees

When I moved to the suburbs of Northampton in 2006, it wasn’t the proximity to schools or the rows of shops that attracted my husband and I to our new home – it was the street trees.

Arriving to view the Far Cotton house in early spring, the street was a confetti of billowing blossom cast out from the 30 or so cherries and crab apples. Later, my son and I would craft names for our favourite trees: the ‘raspberry ripple’, the ‘candyfloss’, and the ‘rhubarb and custard’.

The blossom of Far Cotton's trees is beautiful (Photo: Alice Whitehead)
The blossom of Far Cotton's trees is beautiful (Photo: Alice Whitehead)

Taking action

But slowly, one by one, the trees began to disappear. Every few months, teams of council contractors would come to remove trees, leaving only the mutilated stumps.

Action was needed. I spent several months emailing councilors, canvassing neighbours and calling the local tree officer – but when an email popped into my inbox in September 2017 telling me about the ‘We Love Street Trees’ campaign, I jumped at the chance to be involved. With a national charity behind me, I knew my campaign would have legs.

Celebration kit

There was an easy online application form to fill in, which asked me for details about my street’s trees and what the campaign had achieved so far. Before I knew it, my ‘Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit’ was winging its way to me in the post.

I found the kit a great motivator. Packed with useful advice, ideas and stacks of promotional materials from badges to bin stickers and flyers, it was just what I needed to get my street trees event off the ground.

The Trust's celebration kit was really helpful in organising the event (Photo: Alice Whitehead)
The Trust's celebration kit was really helpful in organising the event (Photo: Alice Whitehead)

Your street trees don't have to be at risk to throw a tree party!

Request your street tree celebration kit now

Setting up an event

With a small budget (but bags of bunting), I decided on a pop up tea party in my street offering free teas and cakes, handmade tree-themed goodies, tree dressing and kids activities. I hooked up with a Northampton yoga teacher to offer a tree-themed yoga taster, and the local primary school’s Eco Club to organise a poster competition. I hand-delivered 200 invitations to local residents, sent emails to local councillors and put up posters in shops and libraries.

My social media campaign via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (and a bevy of press releases) piqued the interest of local media. The idea was to entice people with a slice of cake and a warming brew so they would be more inclined to stop by and sign a petition to the council to better maintain and replace the trees.

The day included all kinds of activities (Photo: Alice Whitehead)
The day included all kinds of activities (Photo: Alice Whitehead)

It worked!

Fifty people attended the event despite it being a bitterly cold day in December, as well as two local councillors and a Green Party candidate. I was interviewed by the local newspaper and appeared on BBC Radio Northampton’s Breakfast Show to promote the event and its cause. Six months on, I handed a petition of more than 300 signatures to the County Council and gave a speech about the campaign and its aims. Nerve-racking but exhilarating!

The event was popular with locals who care about street trees (Photo: Alice Whitehead)
The event was popular with locals who care about street trees (Photo: Alice Whitehead)

While there’s still a long way to go - we haven't got our replacement trees yet – and we’re just a handful of passionate residents, in our own small way we feel we have put Far Cotton street trees on the map. After all, they say the creation of a thousand forests is in that one acorn.

Alice is just one of many people fighting for street trees

Read more of our street fighters' stories

The Street Trees project is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.