Tuesday, 5 July 2011


How much do you think the trees outside your office window are worth? How about the cherry at the bottom of your garden, or the ancient oaks in the grounds of your nearest National Trust property?  How much do they add to your life in economic terms? Difficult question isn't it? I went along to Portcullis House earlier in the month for the launch of a report supported by The Woodland Trust entitled 'Why trees and woods matter'.  ResPublica, the think-tank behind the report,believes that, if we are to persuade policymakers of the need to support the natural environment, we must be able to demonstrate its value in economic terms. Unless we do so, it argues, the green sector will struggle to compete for its share of resources.

Everyone invited to the launch was involved with woodland, landscapes, or gardens in one way or another. We didn't need convincing of their value. But perhaps we did need reminding that there are many people for whom the benefits of spending time in the natural world are not so obvious. An increasing number of studies are producing the very evidence of 'value' that the report suggests could help. Perhaps we will have to actively engage with this growing body of scientific proof if we are to ensure that historic parks and gardens are cherished for future generations?

My local Gardens Trust in Berkshire is doing its own bit of cherishing. Galia Adair, a Berkshire Gardens Trust committee member and Trustee of the Watlington House Trust is leading a design project to produce a garden for  the oldest secular building in Reading - a house built in 1688 by Samuel Watlington, a successful Reading merchant.  You can follow Galia's progress on Berks GT's recently updated website. ( http://www.berks-gardens-trust.org.uk/current-projects/watlington-house-project/ )

The Garden Museum organises several garden visits during the year. I went along to my first at the end of the month. 'Two Different Design Eyes' took a look at a contrasting pair of Gloucestershire gardens.  Christine Facer Hoffman's science-inspired Througham Court and The Old Rectory, the garden belonging to Mary Keen.  A thought-provoking, stimulating and very well organised day.    http://www.gardenmuseum.org.uk/page/garden-visits

My fellow dog-walkers and I have registered a small event on the 'Love parks Week' website.  We're collecting facts and figures about the park in which we walk and hope to 'wow'anyone who turns up on 30 July with what we've discovered. It's very much a landscape for our times. Its green and leafy undulations were until recently a landfill site, while its large lake started life as a gravel pit.  Despite the devastation that this piece of land has suffered over the last 60 years, by some small miracle, a strip of ancient woodland has survived alongside. Landscape and social historians of the future will have a field day here.

Until we started to organise this event our group of 5 walkers (and 7 dogs) had never met up outside the park. Despite appearing to have little in common but our dogs, we've gone way beyond superficial chit-chat over the years.  During our 40 minute walks we've all helped each other through life's small (and not so small!) crises. Walking and talking in the early morning light, somewhere green and peaceful - how do you put a price on that?

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