Today I am lucky enough to be writing this from the Blackwood forest, just outside Winchester. My son is on location for a modelling shoot for the day, so I bought my lap top along as there is always work to be done, and discovered a beautiful little cafe with wi-fi (always a bonus!) in the middle of the woods.
I decided to go for a walk first after parking the car, and it was breathtakingly stunning. I have never visited this forest before, but I would highly recommend, particularly this time of year if you have never been. I took some photos but they really do not do it justice. Its one of those moments where you stand in the middle of nature and cannot believe the natural colours surrounding you.
The forest is Hugh, so when you are in the centre, its literally a never ending wave of colours going further than the eye can see. Its a real feast for the eyes.
I never take these sort of surroundings for granted, and it just makes you realise all the reasons we need these magnificent trees to be protected more than ever. From a nutrition view point, trees, have deep roots that can bring up nutrients from deep down in the soil.
In addition, their decomposing leaves become a free source of nutrient-rich compost. An over-abundance of short root vegetation causes nutrients to actually wash out of the soil. This is a particular problem in places where you get a lot of rain (e.g. here in Britain) which results in the soil becoming acidic and less productive. So for this basic reason, we need our trees!
Also, shrubs and under-storey plants such as blueberries, hazel and willow grow best in woodland areas. Meanwhile, many species of fungi, such as truffles, only grow in symbiosis with specific trees.
Trees also provide food, habitat and shelter for birds and countless other critters as well as fungi, lichen and micro-organisms. In general, the older the tree and the older the forest, the greater the biodiversity there will be.
Trees do an amazing job of absorbing air pollution in cities too. There are several reports from the woodlands trust, that identifies which trees are best for the job. Unfortunately, urban trees have a much shorter lifespan than their rural cousins. Once again, trees selflessly helping us out.
Of course, the one thing we all know is that trees provide shade from sun, and shelter from wind and rain. In urban areas, they cut down on the heat island effect and reduce the need for air conditioning. This will also help reduce carbon emissions which is known as a positive feedback mechanism.
Maybe not always grown in this country, but trees provide us with so many delicious foods. Think about Lemons, oranges, olives, apples, mangoes, chocolate, pears, coconuts, cherries, maple syrup, almonds, hazelnuts, papayas, walnuts….just a tiny slice of what’s on offer from nature’s tree buffet.
Not only do they give us food, but they also give us medicine too. So many medicines come from trees, either directly or in their derivative form. One every day example that I am sure most people are familiar with is aspirin (salicylic acid) from willow bark.
They also help increase resilience. Greater biodiversity increases resilience to pests, diseases and non-native species as well as climate change. Think about the animals that live in a forest. Grazing stock and red deer do better in woodland than on open hills as they have shelter and more grazing opportunities, helping them to breed better and live longer.
And what about the carbon and oxygen levels? Roughly 50 per cent of the dry weight of a tree is carbon. If we want to reduce atmospheric C02 we should be cutting emissions from fossil fuels, stopping the destruction of old growth forests and planting as many trees as we possibly can. Regarding oxygen, we’ve all heard the expression, ‘the Amazon is the lungs of our planet’. Some creatures, such as giant bugs back in the Carboniferous Period, thrive in a carbon rich atmosphere. Humans, on the other hand, are partial to a little more oxygen! Trees breathe out, we breathe in, we breathe out, trees breathe in…its so beautiful.
If you think about how it all started…from a tiny seed mixed with sunlight and water a tree, such as the California Redwood, can grow as tall as 40ft in just 20 years. Iconic trees such as the baobob, banyan, Joshua tree, mangrove and Scots pine increase the richness of our planet and fire our imaginations and help to feed our bodies.
Trees also have played an important role in the world’s myths and legends. The Buddha was supposed to gain enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. A big old oak in Sherwood Forest was said to be home to Robin Hood and his band of men and the rowan tree is said to ward off evil spirits in the Gaelic world.
From a general health perspective, there have been numerous studies, which prove what most of us instinctively feel: walking in a woodland reduces depression, anxiety and high blood pressure.
So what are you waiting for?