by Steve Peacock
Tree wardens have been growing their knowledge of tree issues.
The 22 South Hams wardens representing parishes from as far apart as Shaugh Prior and Wembury, to Torcross and Marldon were in Totnes for a talk by district council tree officer Alex Whish.
Tree and landscape specialist Mr Whish, who has responsibility for overseeing applications for pruning and felling trees, spelled out how the planning process work, including situations that involve tree preservation orders, and what the potential difficulties might be.
He explained that the preservation of trees within the region is of the utmost importance, with many ongoing threats, including pests and diseases as well as changes in agricultural practices.
The role of tree wardens is more important than ever in the face of the number of housing developments taking place across the district. The wardens are keen to develop the idea that housebuilding on greenfield sites can still accommodate established trees and hedgerows and they will act in cases where these are unnecessarily threatened.
The tree wardens who attended the meeting are all part of the South Hams Tree Warden Network, which over the past year has grown to nearly 70 individuals located in 53 parishes. Now only eight parishes in the district have no tree warden.
Totnes tree warden Pip Howard said that if trees were as appealing to people as wild animals, then the South Hams would be one of the most visited regions in the world.
Mr Howard, who is a trained silvicultural surveyor, told the meeting that the region boasts an astonishing diversity of trees. Because of the challenges of surviving in radically different environments, from Dartmoor in the north to the coastal areas in the south, the genetic makeup of native species found here is greater than almost anywhere else. He added that the South Hams has become a focal point for international scientists trying to get a better understanding of the importance of trees.
A network spokesman said: “The tree wardens believe that it’s only the local community that can help safeguard the trees in and around their villages.
“South Hams Tree Warden Network wants to encourage more people to become aware of the issues, to identify local trees of importance and to help maintain the unique landscape of this area.”