The Tree Charter

Martha Boalch, 16/11/2018

Tree Charter Day

In November 2017 (the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest) the Charter for Trees, Woods and People was launched. From now on the Tree Charter will be celebrated on the final Saturday of November each year. This year individuals and Tree Charter Branches across the UK, will be showing their support for trees in various ways on Saturday 24 November 2018.

What is the Tree Charter?

Inspired by the ancient Charter of the Forest, the new Tree Charter aims to help people and trees live happily together. It will help us look after trees and woods, and celebrate the benefits they bring us. Whether that’s playing among them, using them for fuel and food, or appreciating their natural beauty.

tree planting

Tree Planting, Judith Parry


Coppicing is a traditional form of woodland management, WTPL Mary Worrall

Why do we need the Tree Charter?

Trees give us clean air to breathe, they make us healthier and happier, provide food and shelter for wildlife, and so much more. They are a vital part of human life, but in our busy, modern world we often forget about them. And even worse, we destroy them to build roads and houses. The Charter wants to help us reconnect with trees and make them an important part of our lives again.

The principles

The Tree Charter has 10 principles to help us value trees and woods. Here’s a few of them and some ways to put them into action:

Combat the threats to our habitats

Pests, diseases and climate change pose serious threats to our precious trees. Well informed management of woods will help ensure their future health: planting strong seeds and saplings, selecting species suited to the site, keeping forests mixed in age and kind, regular thinning, combating invasive plants, and controlling infections and pests at the earliest sign.

ash die back

The now familiar sight of ash dieback, IFFF-BOKU/Thomas Kirisits

learning to spot tree disease

Volunteers learning to spot tree disease, Rebecca Johnson WTML

Climate change creates some large and fairly obvious problems for wildlife such as the impacts of extreme weather, distribution changes, ocean acidification and extinctions to name a few. There are also more subtle, but equally significant, impacts such as the effect on natural timings, or phenology.

Our recorders monitor seasonal wildlife and send their records into Nature’s Calendar which helps us understand the impacts of climate change on wildlife. If you’re not already a recorder you can join in. Find time each week to sit in your garden with a cuppa and see what birds are new, or walk in the park regularly and notice when autumn leaves fall. Or even use your commute to observe the seasons. Log your records on Nature’s Calendar.

learn about nature

Participating in Nature's Calendar is a great way for young and old to learn about wildlife, Louise Holmes

Records from Nature's Calendar are used by scientists to study the impacts of climate change on wildlife, WTML

Recover health, hope and wellbeing with the help of trees

Peace grows quietly in tree-lined places, where bees, fresh scents and birdsong revive our jaded senses. Sprays of greenery ensure cleaner air and clearer minds, and fitter bodies, more inclined to take a walk or meet a friend. Spirits lift and stress recedes when we stroll through healing glades. Parks and woodlands keep us well and help to quell fears of illness, ageing, loss – we breathe more freely under trees. Healthcare and tree-care go hand in hand: harness the therapeutic power of trees.

You can find local woods to visit and activity ideas on our website. Or you can find a local event to attend.

Getting and getting your boots muddy is good for your wellbeing, Amanda Cogan Barber

All sorts of fitness activities can be practiced outside, Simone Stribling

Protect irreplaceable trees and woods

Ancient woods have been continuously wooded since before records started. An ancient tree may be a village’s oldest inhabitant, they are often significant to a region’s identity and natural monuments in the nation’s story. For example, the Major Oak in Nottinghamshire is a famous ancient tree thought to be between 800 and 1000 years old. It has been suggested that Robin Hood may have used the hollow trunk as a hiding place.

major oak

The impressive ancient Major Oak in Nottinghamshire, Phil Lockwood

They are also habitats for some of our rarest species and living museums of disappearing ways of life. We need laws and commitment to protect these natural treasures.

More than 1,000 irreplaceable ancient woods have been threatened over the last 10 years. Together, we can stick up for precious ancient woodland and trees: Right now, the biggest single threat from development to irreplaceable ancient woodland is the HS2 rail project. Find out more and take action.

You can find your nearest ancient tree on the Ancient Tree Inventory. You can also add old trees that you've spotted to the inventory. Knowing where ancient trees are takes us one step closer to giving them the care and protection they need. 

Celebrate the power of trees to inspire

Trees have inspired generations of storytellers and artists. Woods are rooted in memories. The poetry of trees is always living, for every older work sends out new shoots. Some of the nation’s best-loved trees are from our childhood tales. We feel connected to trees we know and love to see them painted well. Celebrate Tree Charter Day each year (last Saturday in November) to strengthen this cultural legacy and help our living traditions thrive.

The power of trees to inspire can be seen in the photographs many of our recorders send in with their records. If you are inspired by trees you might consider volunteering for the Woodland Trust.

Volunteers can get involved with tree planting, Richard Faulks

Volunteers can also join woodland working groups and many other varied ways of supporting the work of the Woodland Trust, Steven Kind

The Tree Charter is supported by thousands of organisations, communities and tree-lovers. You can find out more and show your support by visiting the website.

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of the spring? Is it a good year for wild autumn fruits? Take part in Nature's Calendar and help scientists to monitor the effects of climate change on wildlife.

Add a record