Great Parks were made for major events, but are their great trees safe?

Ancient sweet chestnuts in Greenwich Park look down on Canary Wharf

It’s not hard to see why national outdoor events are staged in beautiful tree-rich parkland. The choice of Greenwich Park for the 2012 Olympics Equestrian events is just a case in point. It’s a stunning historic park thick with trees of all sorts and ages including some very special ancient sweet chestnuts planted during the reign of Charles II. Likewise Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire, full of veteran oaks, will play host to The Great Exhibition 2012, a festival showcasing the best of British during the Olympic summer.

These are just two of the many major shows, events and fairs this year that will attract millions of people, but does this put intolerable pressure on the lives of precious ancient trees?

The recently published Ancient Tree Guide No.8: Trees and events hopes to steer a sensitive course between the busy, successful event and the historic trees. Written by tree specialists in the Woodland Trust and arboriculturists in the Ancient Tree Forum, it sets out to give simple guidance to parkland owners and events organisers on the key things that can be done to protect the living assets that probably attracted the event to the venue in the first place.  Big trees and big occasions can go hand in hand as long as careful thought is given to the tree and its environment at all stages in the planning and execution of the event. Trees will happily go on providing all their benefits if they and most importantly their roots, are given a wide enough berth.

What if the advice is ignored? If trees and most importantly their roots are damaged it can lead to a spiral of decline and untimely loss, causing a lasting impact beyond the period of the event on tourism and other ecosystem benefits. It makes sense to find a win-win solution so the participants or visitors and the trees all have a good time.

Jill Butler, Conservation Adviser (Ancient Trees)

About Kay Haw

Assistant Conservation Adviser, Woodland Trust. Nature is my passion, especially woods and trees which are just amazing elements of life. One day (soon) I hope we humans learn to work in harmony with Mother Earth.
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3 Responses to Great Parks were made for major events, but are their great trees safe?

  1. There are some good walk behind compost spreaders that you could use to spread a light amount of fine composted organic material uniformly over the root zone of the trees to protect them from an upcoming event. You may get 50 to 60 percent of the benieft of mulch wihtout it being so unsightly. You would still see about one half of the turf length and provide temporary force dampening.

  2. You’re right Antony, a little bit of mulch is such a comfort blanket to tree roots. I am sure if we are persistent and share the same simple, cost effective message then the majority will listen.

  3. Antony Croft says:

    I think the reality is that no measures will be taken to stop compaction and urea around the root plates of these ancients/veterans during the event. If they are unprotected now, they will almost certainly continue to be so throughout the events.

    Shame as all it would take is some mulch no one will want to sit on chip as opposed to grass, and even if they did they would have little compaction effect as all would be reversed by biology as would the urea issue.

    So simple, so effective, so cheap, but so hard to instigate!

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