Trees and the city



trees for cities

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They say that from small acorns mighty trees grow and UK charity Trees For Cities are putting those words into practice.

Earlier this year they planted their 100,000th tree and they're now campaigning to see a million new trees in London by the start of the 2012 Olympics.

Their efforts have caught the attention of London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has pledged to spend £1 million a year (over $A2.2 million) on planting around 10,000 street trees in the city.

Other high profile supporters include celebrity chef Jamie Oliver and internationally acclaimed architect Richard Rogers.

It was back in 1993 that a group of like-minded young Londoners came up with a simple idea, but one with huge ambition.

Parts of their city were severely lacking in greenery, creating unnecessarily sterile surroundings. Their solution was to set up a charity, which would increase people's appreciation of trees and encourage local communities to improve their environment.

In the 15 years since that seed of an idea took shape, Trees For Cities has extended its activities into other UK cities, as well as supporting international greening projects in Ethiopia, Kenya and Peru.

Kirsty Wedge is the charity's Community, Events and Consultation Co-ordinator. Originally from Adelaide, she was involved in her home city's Urban Forest Biodiversity Program and volunteered at organizations such as Trees For Life and Greening Australia before moving to the UK two and a half years ago.

"In London, you have lots of multi-storey living, where families have little or no access to gardens and open spaces," she said. "We work closely with these residents and any 'friends of...' groups. There's lots of consultation and we do door knocking, leaflet dropping and organise fun days and planting events."

Whilst creating a more pleasant environment to live and work in is a key objective, the schemes are also squarely aimed at bringing people together. By getting locals to participate and contribute their own ideas and knowledge to every stage of the process, they start to feel ownership and pride in their area.

"It's great to see the satisfaction the local community feel by getting involved," said Kirsty. "You hear about their lack of space, that they have no connection with nature and the fact that they've never planted a tree before, but then you see young children and the elderly planting not one, but maybe five trees in one day."

Now with a team over 30 strong, the charity is also able to organise hands-on workshops in schools, where pupils can create their very own wildlife garden, whilst for any adults who really get the bug, it offers courses in horticulture, tree surgery and woodland management.

Over the past year, 9,250 volunteers have given their time and energy to the Trees For Cities cause.