Constructing forest holiday cabins, setting up adventure courses and other minor infrastructure within UK forests, is surely self defeating and actually at risk of turning more people away from a connection with a tree and in searching for potential diverse funding from a forest or a single tree, are many missing a huge point – a tree itself?
It was Alan Dyer, I believe, who used to encourage groups to find a tree and feel it, whilst blindfold in a wood. Then after removing the blindfold ask the group to find the same tree. Apparently the group members rarely got it wrong and went back to their tree.
When I was studying ‘Forest Mensuration’ our lecturer cheekily took a photo of us as we were all measuring dbh (diameter at breast height), which involves running a rounded off measuring tape around the tree. The photos made us all look like ‘tree huggers’ and as young ‘forestry’ students, we weren’t happy about this. Subsequently all of us became increasingly aware of our love for trees and forests and thus comfortable with being considered tree huggers or tree anoraks.
Foresters and Arboriculturalists are well known by their family and friends to take detours to see particular trees or woodland, we are often avoided when family holidays are planned for fear of spending 2 weeks in the middle of forest, (and not I hasten to add at ‘Centerparcs’). Our families no longer allow us in charge of the camera for fear of a repeat of the time when every photo was actually of a tree and a family member used as a convenient scale. The plus side is that we rarely look at members of the opposite sex as we are too often gazing up at a canopy to notice. Once in Plymouth I was in charge of a team working on some trees, I heard some hollering whilst I was writing in the cab and my instant reaction was to go and discipline the team about wolf whistling at girls – they weren’t – they were excited after finding a small Sorbus growing in a fissure up the Oak we were working on.
The fact is that we in the industry have bonded with the trees we work with. We love trees and our work (the salary sure as hell isn’t what keeps us in the trade) and it would be good if we had more do to with tree planting, preservation and maintenance – but this is not what is profitable or desired by most of our clients and efforts by successive governments to redress this have been minimal and largely lost in PR & spin and then acquired by our NGOs who have perpetuated the myth that we are the enemy – we kill trees!
Why can’t we have a go at diversifying? Why can’t our insurances be more flexible allowing us to expand our industry and at the same time introduce people to their trees? Why must we sit back and listen to others who profit from the myth that we are only out to fell and sell and then also try and be the voice of what we love and know about.
And going back to my initial sentence, instead of turning our woodlands into playgrounds with fixed furniture, why not hire in a climbing arborist team to help introduce people to the great sport of recreational tree climbing. The customers’ enjoyment will be just as much if not more than walking along a fixed platform in the canopy. The experience will be unique, introducing them to a tree, which they will never forget.
And further – let us be able to explain to the clients directly why certain tree work needs to be done, because even when the PR kicks in it is rarely correct and leads to the daily instances of complaints which are never dealt with properly because the people dealing with it don’t know what they are talking about and then the NGOs step in, keen to hoover up as much possible income that can be gained from exploiting the bad communication.
As the new language that is flowing into our industry becomes more people friendly, in particular ‘Mother Trees’, lets use it as an opportunity to reintroduce the public to the people who really do look after, care for and maintain their trees – The Arboricultural and Forestry Industry.