Why Lewes must treasure trees

Turkish hazel tree, Cliffe precinct
Turkish hazel tree, Cliffe precinct

The Friends of Lewes is forging ahead with its campaign to make residents more aware of trees.

The Civic Society’s Lewes Urban Arboretum project has seen a survey commissioned of the town’s trees.

The scheme has the wider objectives of protecting, restoring and enhancing the Lewes treescape, with all the environmental benfits that entails.

Currently our newspapers are full of stories about climate change and the likely impact on not only current generations but on generations who have yet to be conceived. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and in doing so absorb one of the principle greenhouse gases.

Trees provide shelter and shade and it has been estimated that they can save up to 10 per cent of the energy needed to heat or cool nearby buildings. They slow down the rate at which rainwater hits the ground which helps to reduce the likelihood of flash flooding.

Health is something each and every one of us strives for. Trees filter out atmospheric pollutants, shade out harmful solar radiation and can have a positive effect on the incidence of asthma, skin cancer and many stress-related incidences.

Property owners share a common interest in the value of their assets. Trees, it has been estimated, can increase property values by as much as 18 per cent, with houses and homes in tree-lined avenues much desired and sought after. They also mask the intrusive nature of many developments where space is at a premium.

With the emphasis on land reclamation and Brownfield site development, trees can help bind soils together and prevent erosion. Some trees can also assist in the cleaning up of contaminated land.

Trees yield fruit. Trees provide horticultural mulch. Trees yield timber. Renewable fossil fuel, high value chemicals and pharmaceuticals may be the wood products of the future. Ecosystems and ecological niches have become buzz words of our times. Trees provide valuable environmental habitats for a myriad of creatures both large and small – they bring the countryside to the town.

‘Passive’ leisure time is probably the largest of the leisure industries. Trees enhance the character of local areas. Trees soften the landscape of hard-edged towns, making them greener and more attractive.

It’s a salutary fact that many of the most significant trees in the UK’s towns and cities were planted more than a century ago. Thankfully, Lewes is a town with a strong planting tradition going back at least as far as the 17th century.