If you drive into York along one of the busy A-roads, you may well have spotted them.
Thousands of new young trees, putting down roots and doing their little bit for the environment.
Patches of land alongside roads such as the A19, A64 and A166 are slowly becoming woodland, contributing to greener corridors around the city.
The new copses and woods are all part of a wider drive to help increase York’s tree cover – and commendably, much of the work is being led by a small team of volunteers.
The group behind it all is Treemendous York, a small team formed in 2011 by people who all wanted to see York becoming greener.
They were motivated by the publication in 2010 of the York: New City Beautiful report. The report’s recommendations included a call for 50,000 trees to be planted across York’s outskirts, neighbourhoods and centre, and for a better long-term strategic approach. A separate report two years earlier had made similar calls, noting that York was well below regional and national averages for tree cover.
Support Treemendous York
If you have a young tree that has outgrown your space, you can offer it to Treemendous.
If you, or a group you are in, would like to volunteer to help on a planting day or with maintenance, you can also get in touch.
If you are linked to a school or community group, you can invite someone from Treemendous to come and deliver a talk about its work, and the importance of trees.
Contact Treemendous through the website or its Facebook page
Treemendous is now 12 years old, and has far exceeded that initial target. Across the city, it has helped organise the planting of 62,000 new trees in woodlands and hedges, and it is steadily capturing the imagination of York residents.
Derek Utley, vice-chair of the group, says: “The New City Beautiful report showed how York could develop its full potential, and how we could enhance York.
“We formed after that, just as a small group. We have been supported along the way by City of York Council, not financially but through advice and meeting space etc.
“I was working at the time as a tree volunteer for the Woodland Trust, and the idea was that we could help save the planet but in local ways.
“Everybody can see there is an emphasis now on the environment, and we are in an age now where mankind is starting to destroy the planet rather than tending it.
“We focused particularly on the approaches to York, like the A19, A64 and A166, so people coming into the town would get a positive first impression.”
Tens of thousands of saplings
Treemendous does accept donations of individual trees that people can no longer care for, but Mr Utley says the vast majority of its large-scale work is through big local employers.
The University of York, for instance, has supported the planting of tens of thousands of young trees around its land in the south east of the city.
Mr Utley says: “Finding land that people would give over for trees was out biggest struggle at first, but there is a wonderful estate manager at the university who helps us.
“We have planted 5,000 to 6,000 trees along Kimberlow Hill, and all the time we are planning more and more.
“Ultimately this will make a difference not only to saving the planet but showing people what we can do, and how they can help us.”
The group is also talking to the developers behind York Central, and has been buoyed by the rapid progress of the new community woodland near Knapton, and also by a new push to plant more street trees across York.
“People are often sceptical about planting trees in streets, but if you look at streets like Dodsworth Avenue or Beckfield Lane, there are some huge trees put in by the Victorians or Edwardians that are really graceful.”
Ring road objections
Treemendous’s role is often to be a facilitator and enabler for tree-planting projects.
It works with businesses, community groups, parish councils, schools and other organisations, to identify land and suitable tree species, and also then helps in everything that follows: designing a planting plan, consulting the public, organising quotes and contracts, seeking funding, and sometimes overseeing the project and liaising with the city council.
Treemendous also works to protect trees that are needlessly threatened. For instance, it objects to planning applications that involve trees being felled, such as the current plans to dual the outer ring road in the north of the city.
It has also liaised with a similar group in East Yorkshire called Greening Pocklington, and maintains close links with others such as the Woodland Trust, Conservation Volunteers, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, York Natural Environment Trust, Askham Bryan College, Brunswick Nurseries, the universities, Rotary York and other groups.
Right now, the group is also diversifying its work – to try to remove much of the plastic that often goes with tree-planting. Tree guards are vital to protect young saplings, but they are almost always plastic, so Treemendous is exploring alternatives.
Mr Utley says: “The guards have long been non-biodegradable, and we are increasingly aware of the impact.
“Tens of thousands of trees have gone in with plastic guards, so now we are going back and removing as many as we can to reuse, and we have also started a new woodland management project, where we go in on a regular basis and take away the tubes that have come off, straighten any trees that need straightening, remove any rubbish and take away the guards we do not use.
“The big thing now is to get ones that are biodegradable. There are some hopes, and some promising ideas, but no perfect solution yet, so we are still looking and working with experts in biorenewables at the university.”