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Tree dressing in a city park.

Tree Dressing is celebrated all over the world among many cultures at different times of year. In 1990, a charity called Common Ground (1) revived Tree Dressing as an annual English cultural event to take place during the first weekend of December at the end of National Tree Week (2).

When word got out in our local park that the Friends of Mayow Park (3) were to hold a tree dressing event, some people wondered why we were having a Christmas event. They were surprised to learn that ours was upholding a custom that pre-dates Christianity and can be found across the globe as a celebration of trees. Customs around the world include tying ribbons, writing messages on fabric, hanging objects and singing.

We wanted to bring park users together to celebrate our park trees through a community event. Mayow Park has some ancient trees and also a young orchard to celebrate.

Sunday 4th December 2016 was the date, the orchard our location. The orchard also contains other park trees to draw people to. The Orchard Project (4), who had worked with us to plant the orchard of 18 fruit trees, gave us their support by arranging for a photographer and additional publicity through Helping Britain Blossom (5) with a press release and a slot earlier in the morning on BBC Radio London. The radio item brought in people who had missed the other publicity.

The weather that day was cold but dry. First the gazebo was set up. Then resources were checked: card leaf templates for writing messages, scissors, strips of colourful scrap fabric, waterproof pens and enough string to tie all messages to the trees. Apple juice, biscuits and marshmallows were available to refresh our visitors. Passers-by were invited to join us in writing messages. A storyteller told stories at the log circle in the wooded space beside the orchard. In total we had 33 adult visitors and 22 children.

At the end of the morning, we gathered round one of the orchard trees to sing winter songs, supported by a parent with a guitar and some participants who helped us sing in tune.

To arrange this small event in a public park required permission from the local council and public liability insurance, agreement with the contractors who manage the park, arrangements with the Orchard Project, booking the storyteller and ensuring we had enough volunteers on the day.

Was it worth the effort? Yes, as it brought people together and the trees looked rather magical when they had been decorated. The decorations were carefully removed 10 days later before they became too ragged. Next year we could improve our activities by having a theme for messages of appreciation to the trees.

More information

(1) www.commonground.org.uk

(2) www.treecouncil.org.uk/Press-News/National Tree-Week-2016

(3) friendsofmayowpark.blogspot.co.uk

(4) www.theorchardproiect.org.uk/about-us

(5) helpingbritainblossom.org.uk/about-us

Alona Sheridan NAEE

Caption: Local park users decorating a tree (Credit: Helping Britain Blossom)

Caption: Singing winter songs among the decorated trees (Credit: Helping Britain Blossom)

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Title Annotation:London: Tree Education
Author:Sheridan, Alona
Publication:Environmental Education
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 22, 2017
Words:492
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