Trees, Woods & the Green Man

Trees are key to our survival. They came before us and we have used, abused and loved them for thousands of years. They have provided our sustenance, food, shelter, medicine and the air we breathe. They are our history and our future.

Yet we take them for granted. We cut them down without thinking and we are obsessed with planting, but we forget to care for the tree. Our culture is rich with trees, woods and green men, from pollards and timber barns to paintings and poetry, from the Green Knight and Robin Hood to Constable and Elgar. We urgently need to find new ways of living happily with trees as cultural, spiritual and emotional companions, as well as for ecological reasons.

Trees, Woods and the Green Man has explored the natural and cultural value of trees, and worked to deepen popular concern and practical caring for trees in town and country. From 1986 to 1989 we worked with many artists, sculptors, illustrators, poets, cartoonists, playwrights and writers; we initiated touring exhibitions – ‘The Tree of Life’ with the South Bank Centre (London), ‘Out of the Wood’ with the Crafts Council, as well as Andy Goldsworthy’s ‘Leaves’ at the Natural History Museum (London). We also wrote and published the books In a Nutshell, a practical guide to tree care, and Trees Be Company, an anthology of poetry, PULP!, a newspaper all about trees, and a range of postcards.

The Great Storm of 16 October 1987 transformed our surroundings and our lives. On the morning after, our message to the country was that a fallen tree is not a dead tree. 56,000 postcards of charcoal drawings by David Nash were distributed within a month of the storm. Other work has included the making of Country Seats with sculptors, crafts workers, the Woodland Trust, Eastern Arts and South East Arts; a series of books, ‘Home Ground’ with West Midlands Arts, exploring people’s relationship with their places; a series of films and lectures with the Tate Gallery (London); and Theatre of the Heart’s play on Hampstead Heath (London) ‘The World Tree’.