“To be without trees would, in the most literal way, to be without our roots.”
The sound of a chainsaw and the felling of a fine mature English oak in 2005 provided the impetus for the founding of WDVTA. Barbara Stagles and her neighbours were dismayed that the tree in Manor Road, Wokingham Town had not been protected and it marked the loss of yet another well-loved veteran.
Barbara and Andy Glencross, then Countryside Officer for Wokingham District Council, discovered that although some important old trees were included in Tree Preservation Orders, a comprehensive map of old trees did not exist. They applied to The Wokingham Society for a grant of £10,000 to commission a database, recruit and train volunteer surveyors and begin a survey of all veteran trees within the boundaries of Wokingham Town with assistance from the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
The first of several training courses was held in St Paul’s Parish Rooms in Wokingham. Recruits learned their skills on a splendid veteran English oak (MRN 177) in the churchyard and oaks in Joel Park. By the end of 2006 over 300 veteran trees had been recorded across the town.
Much was learned in that first year. Recording trees accurately is complex and the technology at the time was limited so volunteers needed support but, when they teamed up with like-minded people, they found surveying became a rewarding and productive social activity.
Andy Glencross contacted the remaining sixteen Town and Parish Councils in the District inviting funds to extend the survey to their areas. It became clear that a properly constituted organisation was needed to attract funding for a more accurate and comprehensive survey so in September 2006 a public meeting supported by Councillor Angus Ross established a steering group to form the Wokingham District Veteran Tree Association (WDVTA).
On January 10th 2007 the Inaugural General Meeting of the WDVTA was held at Dinton Pastures Country Park.
Barbara and Ray Stagles took on the roles of Chair and Secretary respectively and Ian Potts became Treasurer and constitutional consultant. Rex Roskilly designed the logo and Elaine and Malcolm Butler generously offered their technological expertise to set up the more sophisticated database.
The new committee recruited coordinators for each town and parish, organised training and obtained an award of £9,250 from the National Lottery Fund in September 2007. This enabled the acquisition of technical expertise, equipment and the restructuring of the database. WDVTA was up and running.
In 2012 we joined the Tree Council’s Tree Warden scheme to broaden our remit to include all trees and not just veterans. Tree Warden activities are now a major part of what we do.
We want to encourage the community to become active in protecting and conserving Wokingham's veteran and significant trees. By supporting projects to survey and record these trees we aim to raise public awareness of their environmental and historical importance.
We promote the care, nurture and cultivation of trees by supporting local projects, working with environmental interest groups and helping to develop local and national biodiversity action plans.
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