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Haslemere is surrounded by some of the loveliest woodland in the country, and also some of the most extensive. Surrey is England’s most wooded county, with the woodland extending across the borders into West Sussex and Hampshire. The abundance of trees is the result of a happy convergence of several factors – a hilly landscape with sandy soils unsuited for arable farming but ideal for many trees, a number of old estates that maintained their tree cover, and the conservation of large areas of woods, fields and heathlands by the National Trust, which itself has its roots in Haslemere.

Also, over the last 150 years, the gradual decline in commoners grazing their animals allowed trees to recolonise the hillsides, while the residential development of the town prompted gardeners to plant a range of indigenous and exotic species. The result is a covering of trees of all types and ages and forms. Transition Haslemere decided to create this website as a guide to our local trees and as a register of some of the more remarkable local specimens to make sure that we don’t fail to see the individual trees for the woods, and to counteract the temptation to take them for granted.

It is also to remind ourselves of the role that trees play in our lives, not only in giving us the everyday joy of their beauty, but also in their function as a source of timber, firewood, mulch, food, shelter, medicines, landmarks, stories, links between generations and touchstones to our past. Our indigenous trees support extraordinary biodiversity – the English oak alone is home to several hundred insect species and lichens. In addition, trees bind the soil, preventing erosion and keeping our landscape intact, as well as purify water sources. But now trees have an even more important role to play.

At the same time as we have been burning huge stores of prehistoric trees, we have been hacking down vast swathes the only things we know that can reabsorb the carbon dioxide that fossil fuels produce. As the nature writer Richard Mabey points out, while deforestation in the Amazon basin and elsewhere is hastening global warming, reforestation could buy us time as we decarbonise our energy production. “All new trees are important now,” says Mabey. Trees absorb carbon dioxide, break it down through photosynthesis, exhale the oxygen and store the carbon in their wood. Although it is not possible to directly measure the amount of carbon in a tree, we can make a rough calculation. We know that 50% of the weight of a tree is carbon, and we can work out the approximate weight from the height, diameter of the trunk and density of the wood.

So as well as giving our town character and beauty, the trees of Haslemere are an important store of carbon. They are also our natural local renewable energy source, as many home owners, and an increasing number of organisations with wood burners and biomass boilers, already know.

Though our guide, we hope to encourage everyone to enjoy and value our wealth of remarkable trees.

 

The giants of our native species – oak, ash and beech – are the biggest living things on these islands: heavier than any land animal, taller than most buildings, older than many ancient monuments…. Old trees are living documents.”

Meetings With Remarkable Trees, Thomas Pakenham.

 

I believe that the greatest stretches of forest in northern Europe, with their constant seasonal changes, their restricted views, their astonishing biological diversity, their secret gifts and perils and the knowledge that you have to go through them to get anywhere else, created the themes and ethics of the fairytales we know best.”

Gossip From The Forest – The Tangled Roots Of Our Forests And Fairytales, Sara Maitland

 

Human beings depend on trees quite as much as on rivers and the sea. Our intimate relationship with trees is physical, as well as cultural and spiritual: literally an exchange of carbon dioxide for oxygen.”

Wildwood – A Journey Through Trees, Roger Deakin

 

As an instrument of planetary home repair, it is hard to imagine anything as safe as a tree.”

The Next One Hundred Years, Jonathan Weine

 

Quick access our Tree guide and the Town tree walk.

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