Tree Stories: The history & mystery of carved & worked trees & tree graffiti

Tree Stories: The history & mystery of carved & worked trees & tree graffiti

Overlooked and oft-forgotten, carvings on trees and tree bark are a fascinating part of human cultural history. They go back in time to prehistoric times and were of significance to people such as aboriginals who lived in harmony with land and landscape. As herding and pastoral cultures developed, tree markings were important in navigating through landscapes and for recording times, places, people and incidents. A marked tree in northern Sweden in the 1800s and recorded by Rikard Andersson, states in a local dialect

We have lost three cows – have you seen them?’ [below]

Mirey Greaves pics 2

However, tree carvings occur widely in woods and parks today, from inner city Victorian parks to great landscapes of the National Trust, and we want your help to find them. Did you carve your initials in a great tree and if so, where and when? Please send pictures and comments to us as part of a project with members of the National Trust, Woodland Trust, the Arboricultural Association, Tree Wardens, the Royal Forestry Society, members of the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts, the Ancient Tree Forum and others.

Mirey Greaves pics

Two images from Miry Greaves Shrogg Wood, found in 2013 by Ian Rotherham & Paul Ardron, the left-hand one dated 1933

PROJECT OVERVIEW: Part 1: Following discussions at the September 2012 ‘Trees Beyond the Wood’ conference, we set up a project to engage professionals and the public in an exciting new look at old trees, and especially urban trees in city parks and other open spaces.

We have been developing an interactive initiative to record and collect evidence of ‘culturally marked trees’ – from estate plaques, to graffiti and carvings in the bark, from present day to as far back as possible, and from worked and working trees to casually marked ones. This has never been done before and we think it provides an opportunity to get members of groups involved. This will appeal especially to Woodland Trust members, National Trust members, Tree Wardens, Ancient Tree Forum members and many others, involved on numerous properties and sites; all they need is a digital camera. Ultimately, we will be putting a bid together for a small amount of Heritage Lottery Fund support for the project and we hope to involve all these organisations and others, such as the Forestry Commission, Arboricultural Association, botanical gardens and more. We anticipate there will be major interest in this work and both enjoyment for individuals and good PR for organisations involved. We welcome additional contributors and partners. Many thanks for any help you can offer!

Part 1, funded by the Arts Council has been our Tree Stories Art Project [see

Part 2: This will be a further development of the project to focus on tree stories heritage – regionally and nationally. Linked to this we are calling for contributions of chapters of 5,000-7,000 words to be submitted to a book on this theme, from ancient and historic marks and carvings, to once worked trees, to contemporary graffiti. We already have around 10-15 contributors from around the world. The intention will be a book to be launched at an event as part of the above project.

If you are interested in the project or indeed, the book, please contact Ian Rotherham or Christine Handley in the first instance: &

Tree Stories FLIER Oct 2015

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