Filwood has its own “Tree Champion”

Picture by Grace Previte

Picture by Grace Previte

By Community Reporter Rianna Newman

Filwood now has its own official Tree Champion – who will be working with people in the area to protect local species and educate groups about their importance.

Local resident Jim Smith (67) says: “Anyone can be a Tree Champion – no skills or training are needed, you just need to have an enthusiasm for trees and the environment.

“I attend tree related events when it’s possible, as well as the Tree Forum – it’s always good to go and talk to like-minded people.  I also go to the Neighbourhood Partnership meetings and update them on any progress I have made – this means it is kept on the agenda.”

As well as encouraging an interest in trees and the environment in the area – he is also hoping to promote rules and regulations surrounding Filwood’s trees – including encouraging the Neighbourhood Partnership to replace dead trees.

A former Head Gardener of Oxford Brookes University, Mr Smith moved from Peterborough – where he was also a Tree Champion (referred to there as a ‘Tree Warden’) – to Bristol two and a half years ago with his wife.

His interest in the environment began after moving from a home above a shop with no garden to a house with both a front and back garden,

He remembers: “…As I got older I’d dig and grow runner beans and things, and so from then the environment became very important to me – it keeps us alive!”

Mr Smith’s first job was for London County Councils Parks Department where he worked for around 15 years, during which time he attended college studying everything “from gardening and forestry to tree surgeoning and maintenance.”

He feels it is important to pass his enthusiasm on to the next generation and has been working closely with Knowle West Children’s Centre (KWCC).

Deputy Head Matt Caldwell says the Tree Champion’s help with the outside area has ” been invaluable”.

He says: “We know that children learn best when they are in an outside environment and Jim has advised us and helped us plant new trees to make our environment even better.

“With his help we recently planted twenty fruit trees which the children will watch grow and be able to harvest their fruit…”