A beautiful oak sculpture — one of 11 to be located across the UK — was unveiled at the Sylva Wood Centre in Oxfordshire on 18th November to celebrate the new Charter for Trees, Woods and People.
2017 has been a momentous year for our trees with the launch of a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People on 6th November. Launched to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest, it comes at a time when our trees and woodlands are threatened by pests and land-use change, while society is ever more aware of how important trees are to life on Earth.
Oxfordshire-based environmental charity Sylva Foundation has been active at the heart of the national campaign leading up to the launch of the new Charter for Trees, Woods and People. It helped gather stories from hundreds of woodland owners across the country, and hosted the creation of a collection of sculptures to commemorate the moment. At the Sylva Wood Centre in south Oxfordshire, one of its resident craftspeople, sculptor Simon Clements, was commissioned by the Woodland Trust to create 11 ‘Charter Poles’.
Each sculpture or ‘Charter Pole’ features one of the 10 Charter principles, and will be unveiled in locations across the UK, from Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff, to Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool. The 11th and ‘Champion’ pole was at the centre of the launch celebrations held at Lincoln Castle on 6th November.
On Saturday 18th November one of the Charter Poles was unveiled at the Sylva Wood Centre. The pole represents Growing Forests of Opportunity & Innovation, which is fitting given the work undertaken by Sylva Foundation and its hosted craftspeople. It was made from the giant stem of an oak tree donated by the Crown Estates and supplied via Grown in Britain. Its design depicts sawn timber boards with sticks placed between them, in the way that a freshly-sawn trunk is processed to allow the boards to air-dry before being used by craftspeople. Words from a poem written by Harriet Fraser are carved in a wooden ribbon which wraps around the 15 foot (3m) sculpture:
to see the wood within the trees
and nurture both
is art and science
life cycling through earth, light and hands
a tender turning: work and beauty,
Before the unveiling the sculpture was hidden under a silk ‘canopy’ made by local artist Jezella Pigott with help of local schoolchildren. The schools involved were Long Wittenham CofE primary School, and Willowcroft Community School in Didcot. The canopy was unwrapped by Woodland Trust CEO Beccy Speight, with the help of the children, to reveal the Charter Pole for the first time.
Gabriel Hemery, Sylva Foundation CEO, commented:
“It’s been wonderful to watch sculptor Simon Clements at work over many months here at the Sylva Wood Centre, and we hope that many people will come along and watch the unveiling of this stunning oak sculpture.”
“The Woodland Trust have been an inspiration to all of us involved with trees and forestry in leading the creation of the Tree Charter, and we’ve benefited massively from their support in being able to celebrate its launch here in Oxfordshire.”
Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust CEO said:
“Following involvement from over 70 organisations, more than 100,000 members of the public and at least 300 community groups the Charter’s 10 guiding principles redefine the relationship people in the UK have with trees and woods. We’re delighted that Sylva is the location for the Utility and Livelihoods pole. The Charter’s ambition was and is to place trees and woods at the centre of national decision making, and back at the heart of our lives and communities. The new charter will redefine the relationship with people and trees in the UK for present and future generations, providing guidance and inspiration for policy, practice and attitude, across Government, businesses, communities and individuals.”
The Charter for Trees, Woods and People
In 1217, two years after the Magna Carta was signed by King John, his heir Henry III signed the Charter of the Forest. The aim of this document was to protect the rights of people to access and use the Royal Forests. The Charter of the Forest provides a window to a time in history when access to woods was integral to the life. Being denied access for grazing livestock, collecting firewood and foraging for food was a real concern for the people of the time.
More than 70 organisations from across multiple sectors have joined forces to create a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People that will guide policy and practice in the UK. We believe the people of the UK have a right to the many benefits brought by trees and woods. The new Tree Charter was launched on 6 November 2017, to recognise, celebrate and protect this right.