Gardening: Tree Stories unveiled

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Overlooked and oft-forgotten, tree bark carvings are fascinating parts of human cultural history. Going back in time to the prehistoric, they were significant to people such as aboriginals living in harmony with land and landscape.

However, tree carvings occur widely in woods and parks today, from inner city Victorian parks to great landscapes of the National Trust. We want your help to find them. Did you carve your initials in a great tree and if so, where and when? Please send pictures and comments to us as part of this exciting project to record and collect evidence of ‘culturally marked trees’ – from estate plaques, to graffiti and carvings in the bark, from present day to as far back as possible. Never done before, this provides opportunities for local people to be involved; all you need is a digital camera.

Some Tree Stories are decades old, for example World War 2 poems; others are more recent with hearts and flowers, people’s initials and dates. Selected trees become covered in this ‘graffiti’ and with coins; people adding their contributions over the years to create a symbolic focus for communities. We know many Tree Stories exist but few are recognised, recorded or valued. If the tree is lost, the Tree Story goes too and with it a neglected part of social and community history. Not only are we recording these stories, but also excitingly, working with artists we are creating something new and lasting to bring Tree Stories to even more people. We do not advocate carving new Tree Stories but recording what is there. Our project will record individual Tree Stories digitally, building a website gallery. Using a selection of these, the artists with help from volunteers, will create new images in different media, poems, and an accompanying soundtrack. An exhibition will be staged with accompanying booklet and CD to display and celebrate Tree Stories and the artists’ new work.

Now, South Yorkshire Biodiversity Research Group (SYBRG) has received Arts Council funds to carry the first phase. On Thursday, October 30, we have our introductory activity day at the Chantrey Centre, Matthews Lane, Norton. Starting at 10am, are artistic activities and walks to discover more about Tree Stories; morning and afternoon sessions each with short introductions and guided walks. The afternoon events start at 1pm and finish about 3.30pm. The day suites all ages 6+, children accompanied by an adult. Artist Tansy Lee Moir, and local writer Sally Goldsmith will lead activities with an introduction and discovery walks from me. Refreshments are available but bring a packed lunch if you plan to stay between sessions. Whilst not essential, pre-booking is recommended for refreshments and the walks. For more information about the day, email or telephone 0114 272 4227.

- Sightings: Perhaps not for the squeamish, but Weston Park had a female sparrowhawk mobbed by carrion crows whilst plucking a pigeon on the ground. One species of bird, which bucks the trend and starts to hold territory and display early, is the dipper. On the River Don near Morehall Tip, there were three dippers with territorial display; one bird was seen to thrust out its chest and flap its wings whilst singing loudly. Two dippers were also reported from the Porter Brook below Hanging Water Bridge. Watch out for bramblings, my favourite winter finch, 30+ were feeding on Beech mast in the Ringinglow car park at Porter Clough.