Yesterday, as you may have seen in the media, there took place the very happy occasion of the 6 millionth tree of the Jubilee Woods project being planted. Another bitterly cold day in this endless winter it may have been, but it was no ordinary day for the Woodland Trust and its supporters.
HRH Princess Anne planted the tree at Ashburnham Community Primary School in London and the Prime Minister was also in attendance. Guests included a whole range of individuals and organisations who have helped make the project such a success. That these included the Chair of the Local Government Association, Sir Merrick Cockell, and the Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s, Justin King, shows the extent to which the project has brought together key players in society such as local government and big business. The remarkable statistic that 42, 000 schools, communities and youth groups in the UK enhanced where they live by planting a Woodland Trust community tree pack shows how Jubilee Woods caught the imagination and can take its place as a lasting memorial of a year to remember for the country.
But whilst yesterday was a day of celebration and saying “thank you” to all those who helped us, we have been very clear that it needs to be seen as a beginning. We didn’t hesitate to say so to all in attendance, including the PM, who recorded a really good piece to camera on the importance of trees and asked questions on planting rates and ancient woodland loss.
This week has also seen the publication of the chalara management plan and the message that our woodland cover is far too low and trees are still in need of help must accompany the Jubilee Woods celebration. The trees that help make the country what it is face great challenges from disease and development.
A simple ceremony at an inner city primary school reinforced the point that tree planting is about shaping better places to live, work, learn, and spend leisure time wherever you live. It shows the way forward for the environment as an issue through emphasising practical action that delivers multiple benefits – often relating to the tackling of policy challenges that are global in scope. Value for money matters more than ever in the current climate and in that regard trees are the policy maker’s friend by delivering on many agendas at once.
Metaphors about growth spring all too readily to mind but thinking about and acting on, the linkages between an expanded, more resilient woodland cover and a stronger, healthier, society and economy would be no bad legacy for Jubilee Woods.
James Cooper, Head of Government Affairs