Planting more trees in Shaftesbury will improve locals’ wellbeing and potentially reduce pollution and noise, according to Tree Group expert Bernard Ede, who will explain the organisation’s vision and suggest areas that would benefit from new trees in his talk this week.
It was standing room only when Bernard Ede last offered his tree talk. On Wednesday, the retired landscape architect’s updated presentation will address the geographical and historical background to trees in and around Shaftesbury, the current situation and future challenges and opportunities.
“It’s a recognised fact that trees are major contributors to environmental quality and the quality of people’s lives,” said Bernard. Most people know that trees provide habitats for insects, birds and mammals such as squirrels. These are reasons why Bernard is backing more tree planting in Shaftesbury, but he will also explain how trees can help reduce pollution.
“Trees are of tremendous benefit, particularly with the intake of carbon dioxide and the output of oxygen,” said Bernard, who says that experts recognise that leaves absorb particulates. “That’s pollution from car and vehicle exhausts,” he added.
Trees can also reduce noise pollution. “The University of Nebraska, as well as researchers in Germany, have realised that trees have a sound absorption and noise buffering function, particularly evergreens with a larger leaf area presented to the air. Noise is just moving air,” said Bernard. He says trees like maple and London plane are particularly effective in absorbing particulates and noise pollution because of their large surface areas.
Bernard and the Tree Group volunteers have identified areas of Shaftesbury where additional trees might be planted. If adopted by the Town Council, their suggestions would form part of a town tree plan. The tree group believes that dead trees at Tesco should be replaced. They would also like more trees to be planted at Wincombe Rec and also at Hollyrood Farm, which lies off Gascoigne’s Lane, across the valley from St James.
Land beyond the eastern development could also benefit from additional planting along with the area near the new Redrow estate development, ‘Blackmore Down’ at Littledown. Trees could also be planted to help make the industrial estates greener.
The tree group has identified Ten Acres and the green spaces around Sweetman’s Road for further planting, following work there last year. “Last season we planted some small groves of field maple. These are medium-sized trees. They are very robust and attractive. They have lovely canopies and they change to a buttercup yellow in autumn. They are native to the area,” said Bernard.
Across town, Bernard has surveyed St James’ Green which could also benefit from additional tree cover. Breach Common is on the suggested planting list too. “Breach Common is a very wet area and alder and willow trees like those conditions. I think it’s a matter of enhancing what’s there and bringing in some larger canopy trees, such as oak or potentially ash,” said Bernard, who accepts that there could be problems with ash planting.
The Woodland Trust is concerned that 95% of ash trees could be killed by an Asian fungus that causes ‘ash dieback’. This problem was introduced into Europe around 30 years ago and could be as devastating as Dutch elm disease was to that species.
Our town’s industrial estates feature little foliage and Bernard’s group has devised some solutions for Longmead and Wincombe. “The issue is a lack of space. There are hard surface car parks. The access roads are either non-existent or are narrow strips. We are thinking of introducing trees which are tough, robust and upright. They could be inserted into the strips next to the roads where there has been some hedge planting – trees such as an Italian alder or grey alder, for example.”
Bernard says the group has been looking at potential planting sites around the eastern development, too. “We have to be mindful of shading and possible root damage,” said Bernard. “We have thought about the smaller species, such as thorn, mountain ash and maybe field maple. There is an opportunity, particularly on the eastern boundary, which is a zone reserved for the projected eastern bypass. That area could be looked at for sacrificial planting. When the road is constructed, some of those trees could go.”
The tree group would also like to introduce statement trees, like native English oaks or limes, to identify the border between Dorset and Wiltshire. “There would need to be collaboration with landowners. There could possibly be insertions into existing hedgerows to mark the entrance to the town,” he said.
Surrey has decided to plant a tree for each of its 1.2 million residents by 2030. Cornwall is planting a tree for each child in the Duchy. Earlier this year, Bernard and the Shaftesbury Tree Group discussed a town response to such initiatives.
“Originally, there was the idea of planting a tree to match the numbers of population in Shaftesbury, which would be between 7,000 and 8,000. The idea then retreated to 2,000 trees – one tree per household,” said Bernard. The project has still not been finalised and there is a cost implication, although at the recent Tree Group meeting, member and Shaftesbury Open Spaces group chairman John Parker revealed that he could source ‘whips’ of native trees from a ‘reliable’ charity if needed.
Bernard believes that, if his group’s tree plan is adopted by councillors, funding could be found. “Maybe one would look for support from the Town Council, but there are other organisations such as the Woodland Trust and the Tree Council. I am sure there are ways and means of attracting funds from various sources,” he said.
Bernard will share his group’s blue sky thinking for green planting during his talk. He will also praise Shaftesbury Town Council for recognising the value in compiling a list of trees, to ensure effective monitoring and maintenance. Their work fits into an overall vision for the town’s trees
“The important thing is to have a comprehensive master plan, a tree strategy and a tree manifesto, that recognises the different values of trees and the assets they are to the community and environment. It needs to propose the right tree in the right place and then look at funding and include management within that too,” said Bernard.
Bernard Ede’s talk, ‘Shaftesbury – Tree Town’, takes place at 7.30pm on 30th October at Shaftesbury Arts Centre.