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Celebrate Street Trees

Charity the Woodland Trust is raising awareness of the importance of street trees to urban life

The UK's towns and cities have a long tradition of street trees. They're part of our urban identity. Many people are rightly proud of London's plane trees, of Edinburgh's leafy parks, and of Bristol's green reputation.

Millions of trees line streets, squares, and city roads - a green network that breathes life into grey and busy places. And with more people living and working in towns and cities than ever before, they couldn't be more important.

The Woodland Trust was awarded £500,000 of player funding to help its Street Trees campaign in 2016. The project aims to connect people with the trees closest to them, offering communities the tools and resources to both celebrate and protect trees on their doorsteps. It also helps to raise awareness at the highest levels that street trees are valuable and worth investing in and preserving.

Street trees have long been symbols of status, wealth and prospering communities. This standard was set as far back as the Victorian era.

In the mid-1800s, the fashion for tree-lined boulevards in the cities of continental Europe led to calls for street tree planting in the UK. Expanding towns would absorb field boundary trees and incorporate them into street designs. There were even the beginnings of recognition for the health benefits of street trees at a time when urban poverty and class divides were hot topics.

Mark Johnston, ex-tree officer and author of Street Trees in Britain: A History, said "The people in those Victorian streets are smiling and proud of their newly planted trees, now grown into beautiful mature trees."

Mark spent years researching the connection people have felt to urban trees over the centuries and their place in modern urban life. They tell a story of where we've come from, of community cohesion and of traditions, folklore, and pride. He stresses that it's impossible to capture the value of the oldest street trees in purely financial terms.

"They're more than just current environmental assets. They're part of our heritage and the history of our communities. They're the most amazing living things in our streets. If we lose them, we lose part of our history."

They also clean air, shade pavements, lift spirits, feed wildlife and beautify surroundings. They even increase the value of homes.

Without trees, towns and cities would be very different places. The future of our street trees can be a bright one. But people have to demand it.

The government has pledged to plant one million more trees in towns and cities, and that councils will be given new duties to consult with residents before any felling takes place. Unfortunately, a recent report on urban canopy cover shows the UK is lagging behind its European counterparts at the moment.

To help raise awareness of the importance of street trees, sign up for a Street Trees Celebration Starter Kit on the Woodland Trust's website.

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The Woodland Trust hopes to raise awareness of the cultural and environmental importance of street trees (Photo Credit: Phil Formby/WTML)
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