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Branch out for National Tree Week


National Tree Week started 50 years ago as the “Plant a Tree in ’73” campaign. This was in response to the occurrence of Dutch elm disease, caused by a fungus, and spread by bark beetles, that was decimating English elms across most of the UK.

I left school in the summer of 1976, and my first job was on a local estate in the central belt of Scotland, stripping the bark off felled elms, as it was the only way that they could be transported.

At the end of a very long hot summer, my skinny 16-year-old frame had developed leathery hands, a pair of shoulders and a great insight into how giants of the landscape could be brought down by a micro fungus.

The last big tree I was involved in felling was a diseased elm just outside Beauly in Inverness-shire a couple of years ago. The disease had taken almost 50 years to travel through the Highlands after its rapid advance through the rest of the country.  The disease was slower to spread in the wych elm which is the more prevalent elm in the uplands of Scotland. There are still some populations of mature wych elms in the very north of Scotland.

Trees for life

Unfortunately, we are presently seeing a similar scenario with dieback in ash trees. So, there is always a need to plant replacement and new trees. National Tree Week is held each year in November as this is the start of planting season when the trees are dormant.

Trees play an important part in keeping the planet healthy drawing in carbon dioxide and expelling oxygen, cooling the air that surrounds them, and providing a habitat for numerous birds, animals, insects, plants, and fungi. They supply shelter, fruit, nuts, firewood, and timber. They prevent soil erosion, and flooding, and are just beautiful to look at.

Get involved

To get involved in National Tree Week, join a local planting scheme or gather some nuts, berries, or seeds and plant them into flowerpots (I find acorns the easiest ones to grow). Check your area to see what is going on - local tree wardens, The Woodland Trust, Wildlife Trusts, and The Tree Council, are all great sources of information on what is happening locally.

But most importantly, get out and appreciate the trees in your area. There is a Greek proverb that says, “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they will never sit”- in modern parlance would be termed intergenerational altruism. The trees you may plant this week will be gazed upon and its shade appreciated by your descendants and people you will never meet.


National Tree Week runs from 25 November to 3 December. Find out more from the Tree Council.