From the Maple lined streets of Clifton to the Sycamores of Snuff Mills, Bristol is a city synonymous with trees.
And now Bristol City Council is teaming up with the Bristol Tree Forum, Forest of Avon Trust and the Woodland Trust, in an attempt to double the city’s canopy coverage by 2050.
Bristol’s trees currently provide 15 per cent canopy coverage, but environmental experts say this needs to increase to 30 per cent over the next three decades to help combat increasing pollution.
The ‘Talking Trees’ campaign – which kicks off today (Monday, June 4) – aims to encourage people to plant trees in their gardens and sponsor old and new trees across the city.
Partners want businesses and schools to sign up to a tree charter and the Woodland Trust is even offering up free saplings.
Supporters are being asked to share a selfie with their favourite tree to raise awareness of the challenge and Bristol-based children’s TV star Andy Day has become the first celebrity to throw his weight behind the campaingn.
External sales operator for the Woodland Trust South West, Catherine Brabner-Evans, said there are numerous benefits to planting more trees in the city.
“One of the best reasons for increasing canopy coverage is to help decrease pollution levels,” she said.
“Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, store carbon and produce oxygen, which is obviously good for everyone.
“Planting trees also helps with urban cooling and shade, increases the resilience of the landscape and increases bio-diversity.
“Urban trees also help to provide natural corridors for birds and insects to travel through and studies have shown trees and parks really contribute to the health and wellbeing. For some people urban street trees are their only access to nature.”
A reduction in central government funding and an increase in demand for council services has led many local authorities to slash tree budgets.
The Labour-controlled Sheffield council has carried out a punishing £2billion tree felling programme, which has caused controversy across the country.
In Bristol, the council finalised £2.8million of cuts to park funding – including tree maintenance – last month. And last year it was deliberating cutting the highways budget, which would have affected street tree maintenance.
The Woodland Trust is sympathetic to the budgetary difficulties local councils face, but says local authorities need to recognise the financial savings trees and parks produce.
“It is really difficult for councils, and we know everyone is stretched across the country and we know planting and maintaining trees might not be high on their list of priorities,” Mrs Brabner-Evans said.
“But the social benefits of trees in improving wellbeing do actually produce financial savings to health budgets.
“We are really pleased Bristol is really going for it and has set this really ambitious canopy coverage target.
For more information about the campaign visit the Talking Trees website.
Here are some people already signed up to the Talking Trees campaign
Pete Tiley and the iTree survey
Pete Tiley from St Werburghs took part in the iTree survey ahead of the Talking Trees campaign
“I’ve always been interested in trees,” he said.
“They’re a big part of my life. I share a field with my neighbour where we have already planted over a hundred trees, with many more to follow in the coming years.
“I first planted a silver birch tree 40 years ago to celebrate my parents’ silver wedding anniversary.
“I think trees are an essential resource, especially in cities, and I wanted to volunteer with the iTree survey to make a practical contribution.
“I’m passionate about trees because they are so important to improve air quality. Trees contribute to the visual and auditory environment and some of them are nitrogen fixers in soil so they’re winners all round.
“This is one of my favourite trees [pictured]. It was donated to our communal garden in St Werburghs by a local landscape gardener 10 years ago. I have nurtured it through the seasons and look at it every day from my windows.”
Fairfield High School and free trees for schools and communities
Teacher at Fairfield High School, Scott Mears, gets free trees from the Woodland Trust each year.
“I run a lunchtime Nature Club for Year 7 pupils and each year I order the free hedge and tree packs from the Woodland Trust, which we plant around the school grounds,” he said.
“The tree planting sparks conversations about nature among the pupils – they’re inspired to learn about the natural world and they develop a respect for it.
“We also plant a fruit tree for every new tutor group that enters the school and have done for the last nine years.”
The University of Bristol and corporate Sponsorship
The University of Bristol embarked on a three-year tree sponsorship programme in 2015.
“Sponsoring the planting of trees was a tangible, practical and valuable way to contribute to the green environment across the city,” John
Tarlton, Professor of Regenerative Medicine at the University, said.
“As the treasurer of Bristol Tree Forum, I was aware of the gap in Bristol City Council’s funding which resulted in a cut in the tree budget.
“The University donated £60,000 to plant 130 semi-mature trees, particularly in less affluent areas that lack tree cover, and to engage school pupils in educational events around the activities of the University Botanic Garden.
“This project is now in its third, and final, year, with most of the trees now planted. Each of these can be identified around the city by a University of Bristol plaque.”