Words Posy Gentles Photographs Lisa Valder
It is too easy to miss trees – to stutter and halt one’s way up The Mall, cursing traffic lights and the timidity of the driver in front (‘Why won’t he just pull out!’). We fail to see, overarching this ado – huge, beneficent and calm – the plane trees, whose regenerating bark, giving the distinctive camouflage pattern, adapts them to live in the stink and fug of our exhaust fumes.
The generosity of trees to our towns, to Faversham, is immense. The recently published London i-Tree Eco Project report showed that each year, London’s trees remove 2,241 tonnes of pollution (worth £126m a year); each year, they reduce the risk of flooding and water pollution by intercepting rainfall and preventing 3.5 million cubic metres of water from entering the drainage system (worth £2.8m a year); that London’s trees store 2.4 million tonnes of carbon, and sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to reduce the impact of climate change, equivalent to the carbon produced from 26 billion vehicle miles.
We have beautiful and extraordinary trees in Faversham. There are elms in The Rec and Abbey Place which have escaped the massacre of the Dutch disease. There is a row of planes growing along the churchyard wall in Plane Tree Court with astounding, nubbled, elephantine trunks, which look like something from the pages of National Geographic to this meagrely travelled writer. It is dreamlike, and one becomes miniature, wandering among the tresses of gently swaying and whispering leaves cascading to the ground from the elegant troupe of vast weeping willows at the Brents. There is a gingko opposite the crossing to Tesco on Crescent Road – this species emerged 290 million years ago! Walk around Faversham and marvel!
You might then choose to become a tree warden. Vic Dickenson has recently become lead tree warden in Faversham and says: ‘It’s voluntary and can involve as much or as little as you like, but you’re automatically affiliated with The Tree Council, a national body which offers diverse courses on subjects such as supporting trees, planting and seed gathering, access to information, talks and excursions to visit extraordinary trees.’
The group is autonomous, meeting every four to six weeks. Vic says: ‘Meetings are not compulsory, just a chance to exchange news, and find a way forward as a group mind.’ The local group reports to David Carey, the chairman and parish coordinator of Kent Tree and Ponds Wardens Group.
Recently, Kent tree wardens visited ancient trees at the Fredville Estate near Nonington. Vic says: ‘In the parkland there were beautiful, ancient sweet chestnuts, oaks, planes and many more, that are hundreds of years old, in particular a maiden oak, known as Majesty, possibly the oldest oak in the UK if not in Europe.’
David Carey will be leading a tree walk in Faversham in St Mary of Charity churchyard on 23 October at 2.30pm. All are invited and should meet at the entrance to the churchyard. We are familiar with the enormous Holm Oak which overhangs Church Road, but there are lesser known treasures such as weeping ash and the delicate davidia involucrata, commonly known as the Handkerchief tree for its unusual large white blossoms which drape the tree like so much freshly laundered linen.
More events are being planned for National Tree Week, from 27 November to 5 December. Chris Lane, who holds a collection of Japanese cherry cultivars, will speak on their significance and history, inspired by Naoko Abe’s book, Cherry Ingram: the Englishman who Saved Japan’s Blossoms. The talk, From Cherry Ripe to Sakura Mori, is at The Guildhall on 23 November at 7 o’clock. Tom La Dell, one of the Trustees of the Brogdale Collections, will also talk on the plans to replant a collection of ornamental cherry cultivars here, and their potential relevance to our urban landscape in the future. Other events are in the offing.
In these times when we can give a monetary value to a living tree, Gerard Manley Hopkins’s words in Binsey Poplars (Felled 1879), seem more pertinent than ever:
O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew –
Hack and rack the growing green!
To become a tree warden, contact Vic Dickenson on 07970 303610 or email@example.com
For further information on Faversham’s involvement in National Tree Week, becoming a tree warden and much else:
Text: Posy Gentles. Photographs: Lisa Valder