A few years ago I was involved in a community campaign, attempting to save a garden full of mature trees from development. One morning local residents heard chainsaws revving followed by CRACK then swoosh of a huge tree falling. (Here's a newspaper article about that day, the start of a four year fight, which we would ultimately lose). It was sobering to realise how little protection a tree has in relation to human purpose, not least where profit is involved. This has bought me a greater respect for our leafy giants and all they offer us, that we often take for granted.
More recently, I came across the slim paperback ’Great British Trees’ in a charity shop. It is a celebration of trees published by the Tree Council, which author Jon Stokes had the challenge of whittling down to 50 from an ‘avalanche of excellent suggestions’. I’ve decided to try and meet all the trees in person and make a drawing of each one.
Between them, the trees tell a sprawling array of events and stories, from historical fact to legends and folklore that have trickled through the generations. With the possibility to exist for hundreds or even thousands of years, trees are exceptional living witnesses to our histories. Rooted, steadfast presences in collective consciousness, they breathe life into our stories as they pass through the generations.
This project is my way to pay attention to the trees, to shine a light on their eclectic stories, and salute their endurance against the odds. That I can go to Sherwood Forest and pat the lumbering oak that was once Robin Hood's hideout* makes me grin with wonder, just as when I was 5 years old.