Our Silent Saviours: Celebrating the Power of Trees this National Tree Week
National Tree Week is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration, running from Saturday 27 November to Sunday 5 December. Across the country, people will be planting thousands of trees to mark the start of the winter tree planting season. But why is it important to celebrate trees? Indeed, trees are vital for our survival as they produce and oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, helping to slow the rate of global warming. But trees also have many other essential properties that humans benefit from. Trees provide materials for tools and shelter, have medicinal properties, give us art and a level of spirituality and they are metaphorically relatable to many features of human life. Certainly, we have, and still can learn a lot from the trees around us.
The Significance of Trees
First of all, trees are the longest living species on earth, they give us a connection between the past, present and the future. Trees were there before us and will be around long after us and even this concept alone is something difficult to comprehend. Sometimes I marvel at the thought of an old Oak tree that has lived for over 600 years, ruling the forest in which she stands. Realising that she has worn uncountable seasons, some of the most treacherous conditions on record. Knowing she has seen things come and go, buildings, people and wildlife, but she remains. It is a concept that feels fictional, a magical character only read of in childhood stories, but she is real. It is this fairy-tale like connotation that make trees such a popular theme in art and literature.
In fact, at the spiritual level, trees can help us become further aware of our connections with something larger than ourselves. For example, tree deities are worshipped in many cultures, religions and mythologies. People have always looked to trees to make sense of our lives, and this could be based on the idea that humans and trees share similar physical characteristics. We both stand upright, with a crown on top and limbs springing from a central body. Perhaps more significantly is that both trees and humans breathe but do so as beneficiaries of one another – we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, while trees take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen.
Furthermore, people look to trees for healing purposes. Over 20 species of British trees are known to have medicinal properties. For example, the oil from birch bark is understood to have antiseptic properties. Not only in the medicinal sense are trees used for physical healing but mental and spiritual healing too. We find solace and comfort in therapeutic gardens and cemeteries. In fact, research shows that within minutes of being surrounded by trees, your bloody pressure drops, you heart rate slows and your stress levels reduce.
Healthy Trees Are Like Successful Organisations
It is clear that trees are so important to our wellbeing, but can we also look to trees for inspiration in other walks of life? Let us take that idea of the old Oak tree once again. Organisations, from employer to employee, can look to the characteristics of a tree and apply the same principles to the workplace.
Growth– As the Oak tree lays her roots and starts to grow in the crowded forest she will face competition from a number of other trees, all competing for sunlight and nutrients. This is the time for the young Oak tree to focus, focus, focus and get to the top. This is relevant to new organisations or even someone with a tough task ahead. Just like the Oak tree it is important to make hay whilst the day lasts, to focus on that growth and to not become distracted or there will be many competitors ready to take advantage.
Resilience– As the night falls on the 15 October 1987, our Oak tree is roughly 550 years old. Labelled as the ‘worst night since the Blitz’, gale force winds of tremendous speed swept through the south-east of England. As dawn rose our Oak tree stood proud, showing her utter resilience in the face of severely difficult conditions. Trees stand defiant in all four seasons and changing environments and this is a key ability needed to be successful in organisations. Whether it be during organisational change, during a recession, or more relevantly a global pandemic, the ability to remain strong and recover quickly is an invaluable skill to have.
Adaptability– Autumn has hit and the cold temperatures are here to stay. Our Oak tree has nearly shed all of her leaves in preparation for the winter months. Rather than exerting her energy to protect her organs she adapts to conserve her resources for the spring and summer months. Organisations must adapt, like our Oak tree, to keep ahead of competitors. If organisations remain with one strategy for too long they will fail to keep up with the forever changing demands of the market.
Measurable– Finally, one of the most fascinating things about our Oak tree is that when she dies and you cut her trunk you will find her annual rings of growth. The years of good nutrients and water will show wide rings and the poor years will show narrow rings. Essentially this is a measurable tracking system that she has left us so we can learn certain things about the previous years. Organisations should track their efforts and analyse results, what works and what does not. It is important to watch the patterns and trends, understanding why one year was better than the other and why a certain year was bad.
Roffey Park’s Stunning Array of Trees
Here at Roffey Park Institute we thought it fitting to celebrate National Tree Week as we have dedicated uncountable time and effort into our stunning grounds. From starting with 9 acres to now having 48 acres, Roffey Park boasts a wonderful array of all types of trees. Most trees remain rooted in one place throughout their lifetime, becoming an integral part of the place where they live and a contributing member of the community. It is beyond doubt that the trees of Roffey Park follow this trend and give the place a special feel, a sense that you truly are a guest in natures home. Many of the trees stood proud long before Roffey Park was built and we must remember that and celebrate that. Soon, for the first time in history, the number of people with homes in cities will outstrip those living in the countryside. Parks and trees will become an even more vital component of urban life. We must respect them and protect them for the future.
If you would like to get involved with National Tree Week and #PlantForOurFuture, please visit National Tree Week – Take part in the Tree Council’s Seasonal Campaign. Also, enjoy below a selection of some of Roffey Park’s beautiful trees.