UK Tree Champion: “Trees matter hugely.”
We talk to Sir William Worsley about why trees matter and why it’s so important for everyone to be part of protecting them.
UK Tree Champion William Worsley led the charge in calling for people and communities around the UK to break out their sturdiest boots and get tree planting for National Tree Week (24 November – 2 December). He gave a special shout-out to our network of 6,000 volunteer and expert Tree Wardens, who co-ordinate activities to plant, promote and protect their local trees around the country, calling them a ‘vital resource’.
National Tree Week may be over, but Sir William is calling on everyone to stay engaged with trees throughout the year.
He added: “National Tree Week is an important part of my year; and an opportunity to engage people in planting trees.” But it doesn’t end there, he says. “Management of trees afterwards is also really important. It’s easy to plant trees but it’s extremely important to look after them too, not just trees that have been planted but also older trees and woods. The challenge is getting them managed in the years afterwards and this is where Tree Wardens can be very helpful.”
Sir William 61, a former President of the Country Land and Business Association, has always greatly valued trees and has stewardship over thousands of acres of trees on his estate and in the Northern Forest, of which he is the Chair.
“I have always been passionate about trees all my life, as indeed my father and grandfather were before me. Trees have so many benefits. Firstly, they produce timber, which when grown sustainably is a renewable resource. They sequestrate carbon, which is very, very important for addressing climate change. Trees provide habitats for wildlife and beautify the landscape, whether it’s in the countryside or in the town. Trees uplift people.”
The contribution that trees can make to people’s wellbeing is of particular interest to Sir William. “One of the other great things about trees is getting people out and into the countryside, to appreciate and enjoy and learn about the countryside and the environment and trees play a very important part in that.”
Sir William has seen the National Forest turn 200 square miles of the Midlands into the country's largest environmentally-led regeneration project. “The principle behind it is to use trees to regenerate an area that was devastated by minerals mining and heavy industry, and it has been hugely successful. The trees provide homes for wildlife and they contribute to our general wellbeing.”
He also encourages members of the younger generation to become more involved in supporting trees. “In the National Forest, we engage very closely, principally with primary schools, and I think schoolchildren enjoy getting out and involved in the countryside,” he said.
“Young people understand about the issues of climate change and this is one of the ways they can actually do something. It’s very easy to sit and talk about climate change and complain that governments aren't doing enough and all of that, but by planting a tree you genuinely can do something. It may be only small but it is actually something practical.”
As for Sir William’s own, personal favourite tree, he chooses three: the Horse Chestnuts in London’s Hyde Park by The Serpentine are “the most beautiful sight, they have always uplifted me”, he says; "the Oak tree, I love them, every Englishman does, it’s part of our nature..”; and he also loves The Douglas Fir, which is: “.. a very beautiful, soft wood and a commercial timber tree.”
Follow Sir William on Twitter.