In amongst all the recent bad news about trees, here’s something that should cheer up gardeners. A new national audit of trees conducted by Bluesky used satellite images to count every tree across the British landscape. The results were surprising. Looking at the amount of tree cover in different areas, produced a picture that emphasised the role of gardens and gardeners. The average woodland or tree cover for Britain is around about 12%. The new tree map showed tree cover running at more than 40% in some areas, not because of big woods and forests deep in the countryside, but because of gardens in urban and suburban areas. Areas to the west and north of Guildford in Surrey (Surrey Heath and Waverley), as well as Neath Port Talbot in the industrial South Wales valleys, came top of the tables. James Eddy from Bluesky said it was the big houses with big gardens which were largely attributable for the number of trees: this stands in stark contrast with areas of the countryside that have seen the removal of trees and hedges for the intensification of agriculture.
The contribution of urban gardens to tree cover is just emerging. However, a recently published government white paper on the natural environment ‘The Natural Choice’ highlighted some measurements of the economic benefits of urban green spaces that gardeners and their trees contribute to. These include an estimated benefit of £300 per person, per year, attributed to living within a view of green space. While urban green spaces nationally are estimated to be worth £2.3 billion to the economy, per year. Maintaining the UK’s green spaces is predicted to deliver £30 billion in health and welfare benefits alone.