Anne Frank’s tree of hope toppled by storm

Sad news, the 150-year-old horse chestnut that brought comfort to Anne Frank as she hid from the Nazis in World War Two has toppled in high winds and heavy rain.

The tree, whose trunk was diseased and rotten, snapped a metre (3ft) above the ground, and crashed into neighbouring gardens in Amsterdam at 13.30 local time,  it is reported.

It smashed into a brick wall and sheds, but nobody was  injured.

The Anne Frank House museum, which has a million visitors a year, escaped unscathed during Monday’s poor weather.

“Someone yelled: ‘It’s falling. The tree is falling,’ and then you heard it go down,” museum spokeswoman Maatje Mostart told the Associated Press. “Luckily no one was hurt.”

‘Unpleasantly surprised’

A global campaign to save “the Anne Frank tree” was launched in 2007 after Dutch officials and conservationists declared it a safety hazard and ordered it felled. They feared it could topple and crash into the museum.

But the Support Anne Frank Tree Foundation won a court injunction in November that year, stopping the city authorities from chopping it down. Neighbours and campaigners argued that, as a symbol of freedom, the tree was worth making extraordinary efforts to preserve.

But it was blighted with fungus and moths, and two years ago conservationists encased the trunk in steel girders to prop it up.

The Netherlands’ Trees Institute, a leading supporter of the project to save the tree, said it was “unpleasantly surprised” to hear it had fallen.

“On the advice of experts in tree care, it had been calculated that the tree could live several more decades” the institute said in a statement. “Alas, in the event it seems that nature is stronger.”

The Jewish teenager referred several times to the tree in the diary that she kept during the 25 months she remained in hiding.

Anne Frank wrote on 23 February 1944: “From my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind.”

She died, aged 15, the following year in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.

Source: Anne Frank Museum

Date: 23/08/2010

Forest Research draws up canker plan

Forest Research is to develop guidance on managing and drawing up controlling strategies for the bleeding canker tree blight, reports Horticulture Week.

“This disease has rapidly become widespread throughout Britain over the past five years,” said a representative for the research arm of the Forestry Commission.

Bleeding canker of horse chestnut was caused by the bacterium Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi (Psa), but until recently it had only been reported in India in 1980, he said.

“It has now proved to be highly mobile and exceptionally virulent to European horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum.”

Researchers were looking to provide an accurate diagnosis of the pathogen and underpin management strategies to combat the disease.

“A technique called real-time polymerase chain reaction has been developed and is being used to detect the levels of Psa on infected trees and their surroundings.”

Previously little was known about what natural resistance horse chestnut populations may have had to Psa.

“But evidence indicates that even in heavily affected locations some trees remain healthy and symptom-free.

“Disease-free horse chestnuts have been propagated and will be tested for disease resistance in inoculation trials and compared against other disease-prone individuals.

“This research will ultimately guide management and mitigation strategies. Molecular techniques developed will also be applicable to the study of other important tree diseases.”

Source: Horticulture Week

Date: 07/05/2009

Ancient trees ‘need public funded protection’

One of Britain’s leading experts on trees has expressed astonishment over the lack of public funding to protect ancient trees, reports Horticulture Week.

Ted Green, an adviser to the Queen who was awarded an OBE recently for services to ancient trees, said state cash was needed because of trees’ landscape and cultural importance.

“These trees are old archives of gene banks,” said Green. “They are reservoirs of resistance — that is why they are still standing.”

He told a conference for Wealden District Council recently: “It is important to allow them to go through the natural ageing process and not tidy them away.”

Chris Hannington, Wealden District Council’s landscape and biodiversity officer, said: “There are many threats to the survival of ancient trees.

“Poor management, inappropriate tree surgery and global warming are all important issues affecting them.”

Wealden’s ancient trees are among the largest concentrations in northern Europe and were surveyed recently by Wealden ancient tree survey officer Ali Wright.

Of the 24,000 recorded ancient trees in the UK nearly 1,000 of them — 4% — were in Wealden. These included yew trees that could be 1,000 years old.

Wealden District Council is currently consulting on a set of guidelines to encourage developers to preserve veteran trees.

Source: Horticulture Week

Date: 06/05/2009

Blossom amid the gloom for Japan

People in Japan have long celebrated the arrival of the cherry blossom with picnics under the trees and this year is no exception, as the BBC’s Roland Buerk reports.

However, he goes on to add that the worst economic crisis since World War II has taken the shine off the festivities.

The winter was long, cold, grey and wet, made grimmer by desperate news about the health of the world’s second biggest economy.

Little wonder people in Japan were ready to welcome the arrival of spring.

The first red buds appeared on the dark, almost black, cherry blossom trees in Tokyo around the beginning of March.

In the last few weeks they have burst into flower.

So thick have the blossoms been that the avenues of trees in the parks have looked like pink and white clouds. There are more along waterways.

Hemmed in by concrete, often used as a conveniently vacant bit of land to build a flyover expressway, Tokyo’s rivers are far from pretty in the winter.

But at this time of year they are transformed, with the laden branches dipping down towards the water.

Tokyo’s residents have been out in vast numbers to celebrate the new season.

This city has the largest population of any metropolitan area on the planet, and it seemed everyone wanted to see the blossom.

In Ueno Park, the crowds were so thick it was difficult to move along the pathways.

Amateur photographers were everywhere, taking close-ups of the blossoms on their camera phones, or snapping their friends posing under the trees.

The seasons are cherished in Japan.

Autumn foliage and rice planting are celebrated, but the cherry blossoms are especially welcome.

In centuries past, aristocrats would walk under the trees or sit to compose poetry.

Blossom appreciation is part of the Japanese cultural tradition of “mono no aware”, perhaps best translated as an awareness of the fleeting nature of beauty and a bittersweet sadness at its passing.

Nowadays as spring approaches, an item appears on television each night after the weather forecast: the latest news on the progress of the cherry blossom front, as it moves north up the archipelago with the warmer weather.

The first blossoms were spotted on the island of Okinawa, far to the south in the sub-tropics, in early January.

In Tokyo, officials from the Japan Meteorological Agency keep a close watch on the Yasukuni Shrine.

It is a controversial memorial to almost 2.5 million people who dedicated their lives to Imperial Japan, particularly those who fell in World War II. Convicted war criminals are among those symbolically enshrined there.

Soldiers were often compared to the beautiful but short-lived blossoms, and many vowed to meet their comrades in spirit at Yasukuni if they were killed.

Among its many cherry blossom trees, the shrine contains one particularly famous example protected by a fence.

When it has five or six blooms, the season in Tokyo is officially declared to have begun and several weeks of lavish cherry blossom picnics get under way.

As I strolled through the park, groups in suits and ties were sitting cross-legged tucking into sushi, rice, noodles and sweet dumplings, all washed down with sake and beer.

One group hailed me to join in a drinking game. To chants of encouragement, we took turns to down glasses of shochu, a powerful Japanese spirit.

The gatherings grew raucous into the night under the blossoms which were lit up with lanterns.

Reserving a place in the crowded parks for the annual office party is an important task and usually assigned to the most junior employees.

Many firms take on new recruits at this time of year.

After they are welcomed at large, elaborate ceremonies – complete with group renditions of the company song – they are sent off with blue plastic sheets to stake out a good spot.

From early in the morning, young men – and some women – in new suits were industriously laying out their sheets.

They taped together cardboard boxes to make low tables.

This year the cherry blossom season has come as Japan stumbles into its worst post-war economic crisis.

Major manufacturers are in trouble, exports have halved of the cars and electronic gadgets that have powered Japan’s rise to become an industrial and technological powerhouse.

Along with profits, the old certainties of the Japanese way are being eroded.

Fewer young people are being taken on by the big companies to start a job for life.

Some firms have even revoked offers they have made, despite a government policy of publicly naming and shaming them.

So as the young recruits settled in for a long wait for their colleagues to arrive for the evening festivities (some had brought sleeping bags as protection against the chilly wind of early spring) one of them reflected to me: “I’m lucky to have a job.”

Source: BBC News website

Date: 18/04/2009

UK forest agency launches greener towns partnership

Making Britain’s towns and cities greener places to live and work is the aim of a new partnership being launched by the UK Forestry Commission on 25 March, 2009.

The Urban Regeneration & Greenspace Partnership (URGP) will be officially launched at the ParkCity conference in London.

It will work to bring together a range of government departments and agencies, local authorities and community and environmental groups to work in partnership to create, manage and promote sustainable green spaces in towns and cities.

“Urban greenspace” is a term used to describe natural habitats – from street trees to open grassland, heathlands and woodland – in and around towns and cities.

Greenspace provides a wide range of social, economic, health and environmental benefits, including the creation of wildlife habitats, noise reduction, sustainable drainage and flood control, cooling of buildings and the built environment, improved air quality, and opportunities for sport and recreation.

The URGP will aim to:

  • demonstrate the value and awareness of the impacts and outcomes of greenspace in and around towns and cities;
  • disseminate best practice and case studies;
  • enable innovation and knowledge transfer;
  • provide a network of research and evaluation sites;
  • identify gaps in knowledge and priorities for research and dissemination; and
  • provide a link to research services across the UK.

Tony Hutchings from the Forestry Commission’s Forest Research agency, based at Alice Holt Lodge near Farnham in Surrey, is the co-ordinator of the URGP.

He said: “The use of greenspace in towns and cities is increasingly being seen as having a vital role to play in helping to regenerate them.

“This can involve, for example, transforming a neglected area of derelict ground into a park where people can meet, walk, talk and play.

“The URGP will play a vital role in raising the awareness, impacts and outcomes of urban greenspace.

“We look forward to working with a range of parties from all sectors to establish more urban greenspace and realise the benefits it offers.”

Organisations interested in joining the URGP or being kept in touch with its work and development are invited to contact the partnership.

Further information about the Forestry Commission’s work on urban regeneration and land reclamation is available from the Forest Research website.

Source: Forestry Commission press release

Date: 19/03/2009

Happy people ‘live near trees’

Living near trees makes people live longer and feel happier, a study shows.

Researchers added that leafy streets also encourage a lower crime rate and a more “civilised” atmosphere, even in poor areas, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reports.

They suggest that living close to parks and other green spaces is “essential to our physical, psychological and social well-being”.

“Nature calms people and it also helps them psychologically rejuvenate,” said Frances Kuo from the University of Illinois, who led a review of studies into the effects of trees and parklands.

“They are better able to handle challenges which come their way.”

The research also shows that people have happier relationships and perform better in tests when they live in tree-filled neighbourhoods.

Other studies showed that health levels could be “predicted by the amount of green space within a one-mile radius”.

Research in Japan also found that older people lived for longer when their homes were within walking distance of a park or other green space.

Professor Kuo observed: “In our studies, people with less access to nature show relatively poor attention or cognitive function, poor management of major life issues, and poor impulse control.”

“The relationship between crime and vegetation is very clear: the more trees, the fewer crimes.

“It actually encourages people to use the spaces outside their homes, which provides a natural form of surveillance.

“In fact, the data seem to indicate that if you have a landscape where you introduce well-maintained trees and grass, people will find that a safer environment.”

One study showed that the presence of trees could cut crime by as much as 7%, according to the research presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference (AAAS) in Chicago.

Children with attention deficit disorders also behaved better after a walk in a park compared to those who exercised indoors or in treeless areas, the review found.

Source: Daily Telegraph

Date: 14/02/2009

Judge uses 12,000 words to legally define “a tree”

A High Court judge, Mr Justice Cranston, has taken 12,000 words to answer the question: what is a tree?

As the UK’s Daily Telegraph reports, the judge thought it necessary to spell out the exact legal definition of a tree because of confusion in the planning process.

While trees could obviously be the object of tree preservation orders, the question remained about the status of saplings.

For clarity the judge ruled that size did not matter, and that the smallest sapling was, legally speaking, a tree.

His conclusion clashes with that of Lord Denning, a former Master of the Rolls, who ruled that a tree was only a tree if its trunk had a diameter of at least seven inches.

In opening his judgment Mr Justice Cranston said: “What is a tree? In particular does it include a young tree, a sapling?”

He continued: “On one occasion Lord Denning said emphatically that many saplings were not trees and that in woodland a tree was something over seven or eight inches, 180 to 200mm, in diameter.”

The issue arose in the case on which he was ruling because, while section 198 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 provided for tree preservation orders (TPOs) to preserve trees, groups of trees and woodlands, he said that there was “no statutory definition of a tree”.

He concluded that “with tree preservation orders there are no limitations in terms of size for what is to be treated as a tree. In other words, saplings are trees”.

The case was brought by a developer who had challenged a Government decision to not allow works in a young patch of woodland in North Halling, by the River Medway in Kent.

Palm Developments Ltd bought the site in 2001 and applied for permission to use the land as a commercial wharf.

Before the World War II, it was an industrial site but then it was abandoned, leaving a succession of trees to grow up.

Medway Council refused planning permission and applied for the site to be protected with a tree preservation order.

The company then appealed to Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, but she agreed with planning inspectors that the development would “cause irreversible harm to the visual amenity of the woodland”.

Palm Developments Ltd launched a fresh appeal in the High Court but that also proved to be unsuccessful.

Here is the full ruling by Mr Justice Cranston

Source: Daily Telegraph

Date: 13/02/2009

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