The Shady Side of Town

A Different Kind of Tree Project. Anna Iwaschkin describes how the launch of a new book on local trees fired enthusiasm for trees in the town.


It was a 21st century start to a collaboration: two strangers, seeing each others’ posts about trees by chance on the Facebook page of a mutual associate. One friended the other  and conversations led to a meeting (under a favourite tree of course) .Gradually the germ of an idea for a book emerged. Adrian Lawson, long experienced through his work in Reading’s Open Spaces and Geoff Sawers, once Artist in Residence at Dinton Pastures near Reading, started walking around the town looking at trees they remembered, favourite trees, distinctive trees, ancient trees. Too often, as publisher Sally Mortimore remarked ” the stories of towns are..told in terms of their architecture, or the humans that have lived in them”: their book would bring trees to the fore, recording their place in the town’s heritage.



The Shady Side of Town. Reading’s Trees* brings together Adrian’s lyrical prose in his stories of the trees alongside Geoff’s stunning and unforgettable paintings. As publication date drew nearer, the authors decided on an out of doors book launch (no conventional book signing in a bookshop for them!). With a framework in mind, they approached Reading Tree Wardens and, together with other environmental support groups, planned Reading May Day Tree Festival. It was  a bold endeavour with three consecutive morning  tree walks leading to the beautiful Caversham Court Gardens for afternoon events, teas, and book signing. The afternoon included children’s activities, guided walks round the park’s superb  specimen trees, a tree carving show, and tree themed  poetry readings by local poets. Everyone was bowled over by the success of the day: huge numbers of the Reading public turned out for the walks and the park events were fully subscribed. The book sold well too!


The celebratory events accompanying the book publication were probably the most effective combination of activities that Reading Tree Wardens have accomplished in terms of  raising awareness of trees, and we wanted to share the story with Leaf! readers. Not everyone can manage to plant a tree or clear woodlands but it is still possible, as our story shows, to make a contribution. People from other towns are now reading the book and getting ideas about doing something similar.  What are the stories of your town’s trees?




*Lawson, A. and Sawers, G. (2017), The Shady Side of Town. Reading’s Trees. Two Rivers Press. Reading. ISBN: 978-1-909747-28-9

Events such as this are a wonderful way to get people out and about thinking about their trees. Access is one of the 10 Principles of the Tree Charter- show your support and sign the Tree Charter today!

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