The Cornwall Parish Tree Warden Scheme

The Tree Warden Scheme is an exciting initiative being provided by the Tree Council (a national registered charity) with sponsorship from the National Grid. It is administered nationally  by the Tree Council with the co-operation of Cornwall Council and the Parish and Town Councils.

Why are Tree Wardens Needed?

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Trees, woods and hedges are disappearing from our landscapes. Cornwall is one of the least wooded counties in the country with only 4-5% tree cover compared with 10% nationally and 27% in France and 31% in Spain.

There are many causes of these losses including:

  • Agricultural change;
  • Urban and industrial development;
  • Neglect;
  • Disease and;
  • Storms and droughts.

All these losses highlight the finite life span of trees and the need for a continuing programme of promoting natural regeneration, of managing woodlands, and of planting trees as future replacements for and enhancement of existing stock. We need to take action now if future generations are to enjoy the beauty and variety of our landscapes. To be most effective, this action should be taken by people on the spot; the people who know their localities intimately and who have most to gain from the protection and enhancement of their environment.

Tree Wardens need not be experts, only enthusiasts, and tree wardening can often happily be combined with other activities, such as taking children to school, exercising dogs and family walks. Some wardens have demanding jobs; others are unemployed or retired.

The Tree Council is providing each warden with a detailed information pack free of charge and from time to time optional training courses and other events are organised by them and other bodies.

Wardens will be supported in their role by their Parish Council, which in turn may look to the Tree Council and Cornwall Council for help in matters which are beyond its resources.

Tree Wardens work closely with their local community, and with local farmers and landowners. Among the tasks they may become involved in are:-

Gathering information and doing surveys of their local trees, so as to develop ideas for projects, discover where practical help and advice is needed, and become aware of threats to trees that may need bringing to the attention of the local authority.

Giving advice - a key element in the Tree Warden's role. It might cover such things as what species to plant, how to deal with damaged trees, and how to obtain grant aid for planting. Wardens will not necessarily have all the answers, but they will soon learn where to find them. Local societies and schools may also welcome talks on tree planting and basic woodland management.

Protecting trees: trees and woods need protection, and local people can often see what needs to be done before council officials. Only too often trees suffer at the hands of builders and developers, and some landowners cannot be exempted from criticism in this respect. Tree Wardens have a vital role to play here, by informing the local council of threats to trees, and so helping to ensure compliance with Tree Preservation Orders and planning consents. They can also keep their eyes open for vandalism to newly planted trees, and look out for trees showing signs of disease, or becoming dangerous through decay.

Organising, or encouraging others to organise, practical projects such as tree planting or woodland management. Community involvement is one of the main aims of the Tree Warden Scheme. Wardens can work with schools to create conservation areas, organise guided tree walks, give talks to local groups, help farmers to lay hedges, encourage local environmental improvement projects, plan tree planting projects for National Tree Week and so on. Sharing the practical work is not only enjoyable, but also helps people to see that trees are a vital part of that community. Involving children and youth groups also helps to control vandalism.

There are numerous tangible examples, nationally and locally, of what Tree Wardens have already achieved.  Some of these include:

  • Organising a tree identification competition, with sponsored prizes, for the local school;
  • Taking groups of school children on woodland walks;
  • Publishing a booklet describing the notable trees in the parish;
  • Persuading farmers to "liberate" young trees from hedges, sparing them the flail and allowing them the chance to grow into mature trees;
  • Encouraging local farmers to plant over 4ha of new woodland;
  • Surveying bat roosts in trees and;
  • Planting trees on derelict ground in the village, on a disused airfield, or along all its approach roads, so that visitors cannot fail to be aware that this is a village where trees matter.

People who are interested in becoming Tree Wardens should contact their Parish Council in the first instance. When appointed, the Parish Council will inform Cornwall Council and you will be sent a starter pack full of ideas for projects and practical guidelines to help you develop your ideas and projects. 

National Grid's concern for the environment and desire to support local communities coincide in the Tree Warden Scheme - a scheme the company believes can make a vital contribution to nature conservation in Britain. The major sponsorship package includes the production of the information pack, and the employment of a full-time co-ordinator for three years.

Contact details for the Tree Council

For further information on the Tree Warden scheme and contact details are on the Tree Council website.