‘I like trees but…’ Yes, of course you do

Matthew Chatfield
Latest posts by Matthew Chatfield (see all)

Those crazy Australians are poisoning trees to open up sea views! The Ranger is amazed that this story needed to come from as far afield as Sydney. In his experience, this sort of thing is going on all the time. And he should know – working on the Isle of Wight where sea views are highly valued, and trees are highly protected, he can attest from long personal experience to the commonplace nature of this fundamental dispute between trees and humans – and thus, perhaps more obviously, between humans and humans.

It’s a great enigma, often articulated by those affected, why people choose to move into an area with many trees in it, and then begin to cut them down. Whilst sometimes a long-standing resident will be the culprit, it seems to be remarkably often that an incomer is the one who starts a program of subtle, or not-so-subtle, tree removal. Why, the puzzled neighbours ask, did they move here, with all these trees, if all they want to do is take them down? The Ranger has never satisfactorily explained this phenomenon. It may just be coincidence, but when the culprits are asked the same question, they can never come up with an answer either. Their response, if there is one, usually starts with something along the lines of “I like trees, but…”

So why do they do it? One theory points the finger at the rise of ‘garden makeovers’ and heavy engineering in the shrubbery, supported by retailers hiring and selling more plant and fewer plants. Certainly it seems that we now have the expectation that our gardens should be exactly how we want them, immediately. The idea of working with what already exists, or of waiting for it to develop, seems to be out of favour with many would-be gardeners. Nor may the wishes and aspirations of neighbours be a factor in their considerations. Gardening, today, is perhaps more like home decorating. The downside of removing trees to improve the view, and the usual reason for objections by others, is that trees work in more than one direction as a screen. From outside the garden, the trees screen the buildings, making a nicer view for everyone else. Perhaps a more measured and patient approach would lead to a better environment for us all.

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

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