RICHARD WILLIAMSON: Talking to the trees

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‘I talked to the trees, that’s why they put me away’ sang Spike Milligan. He need not have worried; we need them, and they need us. Why not talk to your friends.

They are helping us to live, swallowing all that filthy carbon dioxide which is harming our health, and replacing it with life-giving oxygen. Now we are listening to the trees as they perform this alchemy.

Dame Judi Dench showed us how on TV. She heard the gurgling of the cells in the sapwood as a tree in Kew Gardens drank water out of the ground. So when you march along the Roman road on this week’s walk through Eartham Wood, think of all those lovely upright silver swords of beech trees as being like the weapons of the soldiers in their crusade against the dark forces of our times. They are reversing the stagnation of our planet as we churn out more filth and they are trying their best to make the planet safer. If we are to have this vast infilling of houses and new development around our towns and Chichester city, we must plant more trees to combat the growing danger to our health. Planners might say trees grow tall and become hazards in the future. That’s nothing to what will happen to our lungs if we don’t plant trees.

We want rows of oak trees in the White Farm development on Chichester’s NW quadrant. They already grow there and there must be more. Bushes in gardens should be mandatory too, and hawthorns with their lovely May blossom and autumn berries for the birds migrating through the gardens to the coast will benefit as much as we will with the life-giving oxygen churned out by these shrubs.

Oaks and hawthorns are the backbone of our native trees culture and will grow easily but we do need an expert to rear them from seed in their early stages, and we do need a crusading planner to see that it happens. Over to you planners. Now, as you walk along the Appian Way (come on: Respighi’s Pines of Rome, if you’re awake) along my walk this week, you will leave the beech forest and continue out into the open downs. They are very bare of trees and hedgerows and need some clumps of beech trees and more hawthorn shrubs along the way to shelter sheep in the meadows. Every little helps.

As for the destruction of hedgerows by developers in the Tangmere area as recently reported in this paper just before Christmas – well, that is a crime against the planet. Cutting off our supply of oxygen is like cutting off our supply of water or electricity to our homes. Yes, it is getting as bad as that.

I heard recently of hedge-grubbing on the Glynde Estate in East Sussex where a whole hedge of beneficial blackthorns was destroyed. Why? The blossoms of spring that feed bees and the rare brown hairstreak butterfly smashed to pieces in a moment. Too bad.

Well, if ‘talking’ to the trees; i.e. recognising them as friends, makes one a nutter, then I certainly am one.