Cornwall has the least wooded area, in the least wooded Country in Europe. A huge push in tree planting of broadleaf indigenous species has resulted in Cornwall seeing a huge increase in tree cover, well over the national average. A combination of efforts from the County Council, Natural England, Forestry Commission and a consortium of NGOs local and national using both private funding and European funding has resulted in woodland creation projects unlike any other seen in the UK.
Truro, as with all other cities, is always at risk of being ignored financially in the race to preserve and enhance rural landscapes and areas of existing rich biodiversity. The urban environment has only really recently been discovered to be as rich in biodiversity and as important as the countryside to us. Parks and greenspace are just as capable of providing a connection to nature and the wellbeing so important to us that can be derived from this connection. Parks are as enigmatic to us emotionally as the most dramatic landscapes found in the UK, when our heads were turned to the pseudo wild landscapes of Britain, our pockets were also.
There is one project in Truro, which is worthy of more celebration than any other in Cornwall, it is a project few even in Truro let alone further afield even know about. But it will genuinely affect all those living in Truro and its importance could be instrumental in helping the UK tackle climate change and the threats it brings to all our trees in Britain and further.
Truro since 1991 has been turning into an arboretum city. Hundreds of trees, many of them rare, have been planted throughout the city and continue to be. The project has attracted little attention asides from occasional local press and only recently some grant funding was made available from the CPRE to further the project and further combine it with horticultural objectives .
There were no initial grants and no initial discussion, this was the work of one man who simply went out there and did it! Buying the trees himself, he embodies the spirit of Jean Giono’s fictional hero in ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’. In doing so he has raised the value of Truro as a whole, he has raised the value of the houses and businesses, as well as by values ascertained from ecosystem services. But this is largely irrelevant.
Richard Argall is a Truronian, with a passion for trees and his place, both of which led him to carry out the planting. The resulting trees are not only invaluable to the communities and visitors of Truro, but also an invaluable resource to investigate urban trees as a whole and in particular unusual and rare species that are not included in the lists of suitable trees for cities. However one cannot use these trees as a measure of financial implications for maintenance of trees, as Richard, perhaps unsurprisingly, carries this out himself.
Truro Tree Project
BY RICHARD ARGALL
This is a list of the trees planted by Richard, which he kindly provided us:
Although Truro has city status it is the size of a regional market town (pop. In 2001 census of 21,000), as such it is still possible to walk out into unspoilt countryside with a rich mosaic of woods, fields, paths and valleys. Likewise the urban centre consists of small intimate streets, gardens, and public and private spaces. Truro means ‘Three Rivers’ in Cornish and sits in a basin – like valley. You can look from one side to the other and pick out individual trees.
I have always lived in Truro and my mum still lives in the house where I was born. In 1983 I began working as a self employed window cleaner, which I still am.
My love of trees probably started during a period of unemployment when I took on two overgrown pieces of land to use as allotments. Both patches had fruit trees growing on them which I began pruning (probably very badly). These parcels have now been built on, but a relic of a pear, a Beurre Clairgeau planted in 1875 still survives.
The first tree I ever planted was a hawthorn, a seedling taken from our cottage garden in central Truro and transplanted into a neighbour’s boundary. I began looking at trees in other neighbour’s and then customer’s gardens, it wasn’t long before I started filling in spaces with more trees. Planting went up a notch when my friend Kevin Baradell offered a free supply of seed grown natives and exotics. Being free, many offers of planting were accepted and I began placing trees in areas of public realm, schools, graveyards and private gardens. There were many early losses but it was these young trees that taught me planting techniques, the principles of formative pruning and the necessity of aftercare. It became an ambition to plant a tree in every street where I worked. In this way I was able to combine my job with my love of trees. My monthly window cleaning round gives me the opportunity to keep an eye on, and enjoy, lots of trees.
Public realm planting has resulted in a close working relationship with Truro City Parks Department, County Foresters and Tree Officers. I regularly go out with parks department staff to plant and carry out essential aftercare. I am also the local tree warden and chairman of the Truro in Bloom Committee.
Where sites have restricted space the limitations mean I put a great deal of thought into choosing an appropriate species or cultivar. The plantings I find most exciting though are those where a single tree transforms an empty urban space into a green oasis.
As a thought to other tree lovers I would encourage active involvement with trees planted near where you live, or work, or on your way to work. How often do you pass a planting which is suffering from neglect. Maybe the tree tie needs removing or a snapped branch needs attention.
Why not take appropriate action yourself? The more we interact with the living environment around us the more it becomes part of us and us of it.
by Richard Argall
Window Cleaner, urban tree planter, tree warden and chairman of the Truro in Bloom Committee