It's National Tree Dressing day this week and as a result, I've been thinking about our favourite trees.
Do you have a favourite tree and what does it mean to you?
I have lots of favourite trees. The amazing old Oaks and Chestnuts in woodlands I have worked in, the big Beeches at Three Cornered Copse, the huge gnarley Sycamore tree in Hove park...I love all of these trees. They're beautiful landmarks, ecologically important and full of history. I like to point them out to my oldest son, who's 5.
...He usually replies 'meh'.
He has a different relationship with trees. See a tree: climb it. If it doesn't have low branches to climb on, he's not interested. I know exactly what his favourite tree is...The Bouncy Tree!
Some of you may know The Bouncy Tree. It's a huge old Cedar, situated behind Stanmer House in Stanmer Park, Brighton. We have spent many a Sunday waiting for a go on The Bouncy Tree. Its huge branches spread out like a giant hand - perfect for kids to climb on to and be catapulted in to the air. This is our family favourite tree. Not for it's beauty, or ecology - but because it's fun! I wonder how many generations of Brighton kids have grown up loving The Bouncy Tree?
I'm not sure this is exactly what Common Ground had in mind when they set up National Tree Dressing Day. The day harks back to pagan traditions of offering tokens to the trees for fertility. While the decorating of Christmas trees has replaced those traditions, many cultures give thanks for food and shelter with similar celebrations. Buddhist wrap Bodhi trees in beautifully bright ribbons and Hindus hang coloured string from branches. Also in Japan, white strips of paper bearing wishes and poems are hung.
Tree Dressing Day embraces these traditions and brings communities together to celebrate the role trees have in our neighbourhoods.
This year, Common Ground have teamed up with the Woodland Trust to create this gorgeous resource pack for Tree Dressing Day, filled with stories, poems and activities to support your community Tree Dressing Day. It offers ideas on holding your own tree dressing day and encourages communities to come together to have some fun and say thanks to the trees. We'll certainly be trying out some of the lovely activities during our Forest School sessions this week.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I've hugged a few trees in my time (yep, tree-huggin' hippy and proud of it!). Trees are such a huge part of our communities, our places, or histories, our memories, that we often take them for granted. They're just there, right? ...But what if they weren't?
So this week, acknowledge your favourite trees. Walk through them, sit with them, hug them, climb them, or (if they're strong enough) bounce on them...whatever you like! Most of all, be thankful for them. ..We'd be stumped without them! (oh dear...sorry!)