Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arboricultural Association.

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From the archives of the ARB Magazine

Author:  Arboricultural Association
Last Updated:  13/03/2023

John Parker, CEO

The December 1970 edition of the Arboricultural Association News

The cover of the December 1970 Arboricultural Association News.

Download the December 1970 issue

The April 1971 postal strike cartoon

The April 1971 edition kicks off by apologising for disruption beyond our control.

A cartoon from a 1972 edition of the Arboricultural Association News

A cartoon from 1972 is by Albert Hollowood.

Reaching the milestone of 200 editions of the ARB Magazine prompted me to delve into past editions from its long and illustrious history.

This is the first in a series of articles to be published in 2023 which will pick out some of the stories which particularly caught my eye as I read back issues from down the years – starting with the first half of the 1970s.

The oldest edition of the magazine in the archives is from December 1970, when it was called Arboricultural Association News and was jointly edited by Don Wells and Paul Akers. On the very first page it says: ‘Following the introduction of our new emblem designed by Nicholas Fernley, and of which members will not be aware, it has been decided to adjust the size and presentation of the News Letter.’ Unfortunately, we do not have any earlier editions in the library to refer to, although if any members have some in their own collection then we would be delighted to hear about them.


Of greatest interest to me in reading through these old magazines is the fact that so many of the articles would not appear out of place in the 200th edition – the same problems and frustrations were being described half a century ago as we are talking about now. This is simultaneously reassuring and disappointing. For example, the magazine for December 1970 contains a ‘Report on the thirty-first national conference of the Council for the Protection for Rural England’, in which M.J.J. Pettifor summarised the recommendations of that conference, one of which was that ‘all local planning authorities should employ properly qualified Forestry and Tree Officers’. Unfortunately, we find ourselves still making the same recommendation 53 years later.

The April 1971 edition kicks off by apologising for disruption beyond our control: ‘like many organisations the Association suffered a setback as a result of the postal strike. Everything possible has been done in the circumstances to make this edition of the News Letter as presentable and interesting as possible and it is the hope of the Editors that members will bear with them in this instance.’ There is also news of a new wall-chart for schools which has been produced by the Association, ‘to assist children of junior and early secondary school age in practical tree conservation’. This is precisely the sort of resource we could do with now as we seek to engage the younger generation in tree care, through our Schools membership and elsewhere.

An article published in December 1971 summarised a presentation given by Bill Matthews at the Association’s Symposium on Trees and the Landscape, held at Leeds Polytechnic on 30th October 1971. Bill’s talk was entitled ‘The care of trees’, and an edited version can be found on pages 34–35. Whilst some of the references (such as to the importance of flush cutting) might not quite sit with a modern approach, the majority feels very contemporary indeed.

In April 1972’s News Letter we hear of the formation of two Association Branches which are still going strong today: the Northern and Scottish Branches. The Branch network remains one of the most important aspects of the Association and is a vitally important part of engaging with our members, and I think that the statement as written in the April 1972 magazine is as true now as it was then: the Branches and Branch Committees are comprised ‘of people who will be of great assistance in furthering the cause, not only of the Branch, but of the Arboricultural Association as a whole’.

Throughout the 1970s there appear many interesting articles about the ongoing battle with Dutch elm disease, some of which can be found in April 1973’s magazine. A few of these articles offer a degree of hope – ‘evaluating the effect of injecting elms with the fungicide benomyl in order to protect healthy trees’ – and others take a different approach, like this extract from the Birmingham Tree Lovers League Bulletin: ‘the long fight against elm disease has ended and the victor quite clearly is the elm bark beetle’. Also on the subject of elms was an interesting letter which featured in December 1971 and offered a very different perspective: ‘Why all this fuss about diseases in that magnificent weed, the elm? ... The elm is a useless and treacherous tree.’

The April 1973 edition also included the aims and objectives of the Association, which also sound very familiar to us 50 years later. ‘1) To advance the study of arboriculture, 2) to raise the standards of its practice, 3) to foster interest in trees by publications, exhibitions, and the stimulation of research or experiment, 4) to assist in the training of students in the disciplines where arboriculture is a major asset, 5) to co-operate with other bodies having aims similar to the above.’

Tree planting

As one might imagine, there was a great deal of focus in the early 1970s on the ‘Plant a Tree in 73’ initiative, and plenty of stories about tree planting projects across the UK. One really good article can be found in the Winter 1973/74 edition, entitled ‘Plant a tree 1973 in a Scottish Burgh’. This provides some really good examples of community engagement in planting, particularly engaging children, and reports on some innovative work by Dunfermline Town Council, which agreed to subsidise the cost of trees for children to plant in their own gardens. Special mention also goes to Milton Keynes, offering tree vouchers for free trees to houses with gardens in the city.

A welcome note of caution about the drive for tree planting is provided by Dr Richard Pawsey (from an article in the Evening Standard, referencing New Scientist): ‘the planting campaign may have captured the public imagination but it “masks an almost total ignorance” about how to keep trees alive’. In later years people would of course ruefully talk about ‘Plant a tree in ’73, plant some more in ’74, watch them die in ’75 and pick up sticks in ’76’. Hopefully some lessons have been learned for the mass tree planting initiatives we see being pursued with such vigour now.

Can you help complete the archive?

The archive of ARB Magazines is a great resource, and it is fascinating to see what has changed – and, more often, what hasn’t changed – over the years. All of the magazines we have available from past years are in the process of being digitised and will be available on our website, so I hope you have a chance to take a look. We are missing quite a few editions from the mid-late 1970s, though, so if anyone has any tucked away in a box in the attic then please let us know! In particular we are after pretty much any from 1974–79 so please get in touch if you can help.

A note on the cartoons

The cartoons reproduced here are not all signed so the artist is often not known. However, we do know that John Gallop and Nicholas Fernley drew regularly for the Association’s magazine during the 1970s and that the image from 1972 is by Albert Hollowood. If you have any more information, please let us know – arbmag.editor@trees.org.uk.

December 1971

The care of trees

by W.E. Matthews Esq, Southern Tree Surgeons Ltd

Report of a presentation to the Association’s Symposium on Trees and the Landscape

Mr. Matthews started off by saying that he wanted to talk about the politics of tree care, as he thought the whole thing hinged a great deal on the people in charge and their outlook and attitudes.

Perhaps today we could look at causes rather more than effects, rather in the nature of preventative medicine. There is no doubt that much of the drastic mutilation we see is due to lack of knowledge and lack of foresight. Forest trees in streets with all the problems they bring, willows on suburban lawns and we even see poplars planted for screening. One of the problems is, as most of you know, everyone is a tree expert.

The question of influence from our experience is divided roughly into two sectors – the private and the public. In the private sector we have the amenity society and conservation people generally, and the danger here is that they sometimes regard trees with a belligerent and wildly sentimental affection. Planting, for example, is largely governed by sentiment rather than the soil, situation or suitability of the trees for that particular site. Oddly enough, most of this sentiment is coupled with a complete disregard for the welfare of the existing tree and it is seldom looked at with any great interest until it is threatened or neglected to the state where it becomes dangerous.

Coming to the public sector – here we have what can be described as ‘the thumbs in braces’ Parks Superintendent who is expected to be good at all things from crematoriums to bedding plants. The policy that these people often followed was just to keep nuisance to a minimum and ricochet from crisis to crisis. They often showed a marked lack of imagination in dealing with the public and were very reluctant to ask for any assistance with any problem, however technical.

What this boils down to is that very few people know or give credit to the science of tree care or Arboriculture, to give it its proper title. Arboriculture and the Arboriculturist is rather a mouthful but we hope that this little known, but very old, profession will gain increasing recognition.

In fact there is nothing new about Arboriculture, the history goes back to at least the ancient Egyptians and there is evidence of the Persians, Greeks and Romans all being concerned about individual tree care. Arboriculture was very well known in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in this country, but it was left to the Americans to bring it to the stage of scientific perfection that we see today.

In this country, private and public people in the tree world have united in rejuvenating and making known this vital profession. It has been done on two fronts really – education and legislation. Also, there is a new look in local government and we are seeing a much more efficient and broadminded outlook which all adds up to better tree care. On the terms of preventative treatment, money that people have available can be spent constructively rather than destructively. This, of course, brings us to the question of what do we actually do?

One of the main things is to plant the right tree in the right place to start with. Also, on the question of planting, a better liaison is needed between the grower and the buyer to give better supply and, incidentally, a greater variety of trees.

Another point that we stress a great deal is to plant carefully. This may sound rather obvious but, in fact, we find that especially on contract work trees tend to be stuffed in holes and trod on. One cannot stress strongly enough the need to have a decently prepared hole where the roots can lie naturally and the need to infill with good top soil in order to give the tree the best possible start. It also needs to be properly staked and tied and again it is surprising how often we see this carelessly done. It is necessary to stress pruning on the stake in order to get a good branch structure and have the thing growing properly with a well-formed crown. This point is a better moment to remove the crossing ring growing branch which, if left, may become an integral part of the crown and be very difficult to remove at a later stage.

Another thing that is often neglected, especially in public work, is the need to maintain the trees after they have been planted. There is a tendency to put them in and forget about them – a little bit of mulching and feeding to get them growing would also bring surprising reassessments of growth rates of trees.

Having got the thing growing properly, we come to the problem of dealing with existing trees and here we cover the whole range of what is generally recognised as tree surgery. In all this work the most important is to keep trees safe and healthy, and to this end the removal of diseased wood and dealing with cavities is probably the most common treatment. Dead wood, apart from constituting a dangerous nuisance, also carries decay into the tree and, therefore, we are very keen on removing it as soon as possible. Cavities are sometimes a result of neglecting dead wood or broken stumps and, of course, is often the result of faulty pruning. Unless branches are cut flush with the parent stem or branch, rotting will occur especially on the bole, this can cause serious trouble.

Thinning is another thing we do a good deal of and this can also prevent future dead wood by opening out the centre of the tree through removing growth or crossing branches. With modern climbing techniques and equipment, thinning can also be used to admit light through a tree without the need for drastic lopping or topping. Apart from the fact that the tree will shoot out in a far more dense screen than ever, drastic cutting back usually spoils its appearance and guarantees decay for the future.

We also do a surprising amount of bark wounds especially in this age of heavy motor mowers. Trees are often knocked about on the boles by machines of various kinds and, unless these wounds are pared back and sealed with proper tree paint, they can cause serious trouble.

The bracing of heavy branches is, of course, another well-known tree preservation technique. The principle of giving the crown of a heavily branched tree, particularly those of a brittle nature, support, is a very long standing one and is most effective if carried out with the proper materials. Tree feeding is another very useful treatment. In fact, the Americans put this above all others in that they see little point in doing elaborate preservation work on a tree without first getting it into as healthy a position as possible. Feeding a large tree often surprises laymen but when you think they are often in the most inhospitable situation for very long periods it is reasonable to suppose that they could exhaust the nutriments in the soil and, therefore, some effort to rejuvenate the root system can only have a beneficial effect. Incidentally, tree feeding also aerates the soil which can sometimes be as much an advantage as the fertiliser itself.

In recent years we find in most tree companies that the practical experience gained over a long period is increasingly called for in an advisory capacity. This also covers an enormous range for planning to landscape design and also in legal matters where trees are involved. A careers structure has been established in Arboriculture and all kinds of courses are available through the Merrist Wood Institute to cover everything from laymen to the person wishing to make a career of Arboriculture. This is a tremendous step forward as one of the main embarrassments both in the public and private sectors is finding suitable people to deal with the great multiplicity of tree problems that the public are becoming increasingly aware of.

We hope all this will lead to a situation where the Arborist becomes as well known as the plumber or the builder and then we can have the American situation where the local residents automatically turn to their Arboriculturists and not to foresters or gardeners or any of the multiplicity of people who get involved in opinions on trees in this country. We have the well-publicised situation at the moment where Elm disease is being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people and even Apple trees are being credited with the fungus. Healthy trees are being felled and many other reprehensible things happening.

As the Lord Mayor said at the Metropolitan Public Gardens London Conference – quoting Ogden Nash – ‘He did not think he would see a bill board as lovely as a tree and unless the bill boards fall, we may not see a tree at all.’ If we all pull together, we can ensure a legacy of trees left to our children which will equal that which our ancestors left for us.

Mr. Matthews delighted his audience with a fascinating collection of slides taken in this country and abroad - some of them very amusing, and delegates suitably responded at the conclusion of this excellent contribution.

April 1972

A school project tree planting

Miss Betty Hobley, a Staffordshire Deputy Head Teacher

Where do you begin when the Parish Council approaches you as an individual and says ‘Could you get some trees planted for European Conservation Year?’ and this in February 1970?

You know they are referring, slyly, to your job as a teacher and the influence you could have. Then you discover they have also said the same thing to a man colleague. So you make noises and say ‘Well – mmmm – perhaps we could.’ Quietly you are weighing up the fact that your maxim has always been – plant a tree and try not to cut one down – after all, haven’t you already planted over 20 in your own garden and being parish councillors don’t they know all this!

Some thought produces an idea: the County Council tree man – he’s the man to have a chat to. Will we ever regret that chat? So, the tree man, and enthusiasm, sets the target – we had thought in terms of 50 trees but he suggests ‘A couple of hundred will soon be planted when you get started.’ So away we go – we have to get the enthusiasm of two groups – the Parents’ Association and the children. Both had their difficulties – so we got together a frightening series of facts, figures and photographs, conveying the idea of pollution and the need for conservation.

The children had to do the work but we needed the moral support of the Parents’ Association as well as their practical help with transport, and perhaps some finances. We achieved a wonderful response from both groups. The children started writing appealing letters to our large estate owners – we are lucky to be surrounded in this way – who can resist an appeal made by children writing simply from their hearts? And so, offers of trees and sites began to come in, together with high commendation for our project. That was the spark we needed for our fire.

An extract from the Birmingham Tree Lovers League Bulletin (Summer 1970) include in an article from April 1972 edition of the Arboricultural Association News

An extract from the Birmingham Tree Lovers League Bulletin (Summer 1970).

The next stage was to write to the County Council and bring in all the experience and know-how of our expert officially and then to involve all the Parish Councils in our 60 square miles – this was not so easy. What did they think we were going to do? Rush out with spades and plant trees in the middle of fields and the highways? Events proved them wrong – the cooperative councils are the ones which gained. No-one struggles in a voluntary capacity against long odds – it’s fun to try for a while but that takes up valuable planting time, so no co-operation – no trees – simple! By now we had reached the middle of March – how could we maintain the interest of children until next autumn?

We must get some trees planted – get someone they would remember to plant the first tree! Who? Another discussion ideas of all kinds, Magpie, Blue Peter, the Duke of Edinburgh – we wrote to them all – replies were slow in arriving and negative – in the meantime the Parents’ Association suggested Derek Dougan – Wolves Football Club and an Irish International. He came and planted a flowering cherry tree. What a charmer – he will be remembered even by the opposition supporters.

Gradually through the long summer we built up a big file of correspondence – we got all kinds of speakers, films, discussions and questions going once a week to keep the fires of enthusiasm smouldering. In July came the culmination of several years work making a tape recorded coloured film slide record of the village past and present. We could launch it on the village and would link it up with a live conservation display - trees and shrubs on sale, a wonderful display from the County Planning Department, leaflets on Nature Trails, an appeal for donors of trees and sites and so on. The result was 1500 people came, saw and were conservated. We could then clear up, sit back and plan the planting programme.

I’ve never had the experience of making a wire hawser from scratch, but all those writhing ends of wire which will never come together to make a beginning must be a bit like the problems we faced. Plans had come from the County Planning Department for some of the sites on their land, the nurseries hadn’t got the trees we wanted, of the height we wanted. We eventually got that correct, then the stakes did not materialise. The tree ties got wrapped up somewhere else, but we fetched peat and bonemeal, that was safe. We marked the site out – the cows got out, walked over the road and plaited the pegs into an indescribable chaos, we re-marked the plot and started to dig – clay! Clay to the depth of 2 ft. Those poor maples! More confusion – the Chairman of the Rural District Council appearing on a County Council site – photographers springing into focus at that wrong moment of course. Next time we played it cool and had several projects ready so that if one end got loose others could be grabbed.

Have you ever taken 30 boys and girls out tree-planting? School rules say no chewing gum in school so go out well prepared with gum – it works wonders – call it bribery or call it reward – scrap iron, old concrete, tree trunks, wire, electric washers and cookers, other people’s rubbish all the insalubrious garbage which the countryside seems to have to put up with gets collected up like magic when gum is dangled.

No he-man showing off by the boys - the natural courtesy of a country family prevails - they mix up to help each other, the irony of “the weaker sex” becomes apparent after an hour or so the fat boys retire to lean on the fence, there’s good-humoured banter from the girls.

Mathematics, a straight eye, brawn, a bit of ecology, biology and speculation about a bit of old flint or a gold necklace all get bounced around, used, thrown back into the quite loud general conversation which accompanies these excursions.

Stop and think about the chain of events which makes it possible to go out and plant the actual trees: site offered – visit and inspect – get permission, a plan, approval, order trees, stakes etc. etc. decide roughly when to plant, who will go there, go and mark out site, ring nursery – delivery day passed, promised for tomorrow – look at sky, snow? frost? Next day trees arrive in 5 degrees of frost – now what? Three days later frost suddenly gives up – it could pour with rain or snow like mad – lets go.

Emergency action – re-arrange time-table set some of the children walking – no time to get parents’ cars – run shuttle service with two cars – trees in back of Mini – spades etc. in other car – all this gives an air of excitement, emergency and energy – first children there, clear up site, we fetch others, all get digging, rush round, inspect holes, put in peat, bonemeal, stake, rush round and hand out trees, stamp that tree in – dig on, tie up. Oh my back, mind my foot – how long before we shall see these trees grown up? – it’s better than school – look what I’ve found – there’s a vole, no it’s a mouse – here’s a skull, Phew! What a smell. Here comes the rain ...

Shuttle service back to school – the rest of the staff thinking but not saying ‘What a picnic they’ve had!’ Is it worth it? After planting 295 trees – yes. Regrets? – Yes. At my great age I will never live to see the result. Compensations? – Yes. Probably we would never have met all the people concerned with trees themselves: so like trees – roots well down, solid, secure, but heads up in the clouds dreaming dreams which become practical and beautiful plantations, landscapes and something left behind for the younger generation to lay claim to.

April 1973

Trees in town and city – challenge and change

R.A. Bee, Director of the City of Manchester Parks Department

Opportunities at the present time have never been greater to enrich our cities and towns by the planting of trees. I want to talk about these – the challenge and the change that can be wrought in our environment.

Apart from the normal on-going annual programmes which are undertaken, such as parks and open spaces, new housing estates, etc., Manchester corporation embarked two years ago on a programme of landscaping temporarily sites which were vacant, derelict and awaiting further development – priority being given to the main lines of communication into the city and other prominent sites. The work did not qualify for government aid and the council allocated £100,000 a year for three years out of its own resources.

Work also began on specific schemes on land reclamation with the aid of a 75% grant from the government. An example of this is the Rochdale Canal Park. Then earlier this year, the Government’s Special Environmental Assistance Programme, nicknamed ‘Operation Eyesore’, came along, involving many local authorities with 75% grants for jobs of this kind which could be completed by June 1973. The extra finance available has allowed the council to bring into the work programme sites lying unused which have been earmarked for years for parks, open spaces, playing fields, landscaped walkways, children’s play spaces and school playing fields.

Tree planting is forming an important feature of all this work and an average of 40 extra heavy trees are being planted per acre. The planting of feathered trees or whips is undertaken where these are considered more suitable, e.g. steep banks or river valleys.

A cartoon from the July 1973 edition of the Arboricultural Association News

“You’ll need Surgery, – its Dutch Elm Disease

It is regrettable that there was not more time given between the announcement and the launching of the national tree year. Neither nurserymen nor local authorities have had adequate time to prepare for the large-scale planting of trees. The adherence to a calendar year is also somewhat unfortunate in view of the planting season extending invariably October–March, extended to a month each side as far as evergreens are concerned.

There is undoubtedly a shortage of trees, particularly extra heavy, throughout Europe. Extensive plantings have taken place in Western Germany and other European countries where, in the past few years, great emphasis has been laid on improving the environment. From my experience both in this country and abroad I am rather doubtful about the rather confident assertion in circular 99/72 that there will in fact be sufficient trees available to carry out the desired programme, in the short term at any rate.

In anticipation of future needs, both for the temporary landscaping, land reclamation, and general planting schemes, the Manchester Parks Department set up a Tree Bank. This is now in its third year of operation and holds 32,000 trees at present. Additionally, there are a further 17,000 trees, mainly extra heavy, which were bought in during the spring of this year, again in view of the land reclamation programme.

Each year approximately 11,000 sapling trees are planted and at the end of a five-year cycle the first trees will be used on site. The use of heavier trees has resulted in fewer losses due to vandalism and the results of adopting this policy are very encouraging.

A planting ratio of five forest trees to one ornamental is adopted. Naturally one has to have land available for this purpose. Ideally, land specifically set aside is desirable but in an urban situation consideration could be given to using land reserved for road extensions, which is programmed for a date that would enable a sufficient length of time to grow the trees. The advantage, of course, of having land specifically for this purpose does allow for a long-term cycle of planting to take place. Supposing neither alternative is available, I would like to suggest the concept of THE FOREST PARK.

There is little doubt that there is a movement towards the development of Forest Parks, giving a more informal leisure activity such as walks, nature trails, picnic sites. Providing sanctuary for birds, moths and the whole spectrum of insect life and natural Flora and Fauna.

Why not, when we consider planting new open spaces, plant some areas up solid with trees so that we not only create forest parks, but at the same time plant so that we can draw on the trees as a tree bank, in the early formative years? Could we not extend this to enrich our own existing parks in some cases what I would describe as ‘Green Deserts’ to include further mass planting where it can be done. Again, in the early formative years this would act as a Tree Bank.

Our policy is to plant a good mixture of trees and, where possible, to plant varieties of known species resistant to disease, e.g. in elms varieties derived from crosses made originally between the European and Asiatic species. It should be noted that Dutch nursery stock is subject to rigorous inspection by the plant pathology department of the Dutch Ministry concerned with exporting of trees, and also individual trees are checked and labelled as to trueness to type. With the challenge of the Common Market and aggressive competition, the English nurserymen must look to their laurels in the future.

How are we going to further increase and encourage a greater interest in Tree Planting? There are a number of things that are already practised which nevertheless I should mention, such as Tree Planting Ceremon[ies]…

The ‘School Council’ are at present encouraging the development of a total environment when considering the lay-out of school grounds rather than the more accepted division between playing fields and ornamentation adjacent to the buildings. This philosophy of use suggests greater tree planting schemes, encourages wildlife and gives opportunities for study and observation.

This leads me to another point, THE PRESERVATION OF EXISTING TREES – what is the point of having a tremendous drive to plant trees if, at the same time, we stand by and see existing fine trees destroyed when probably a Tree Preservation Order might have been placed? Some people, I think, need protection against themselves. They do not realise the value of the trees they destroy.

Another matter which gives me cause for concern, when we consider our heritage of trees, are the ITINERANT ‘TREE FELLERS AND LOPPERS‘ that appear each autumn and sometimes through the winter forcing people into having unnecessary work done on trees often through deception. In some cases, and after payment, the pruning and stumps are left with the promise that they will be removed later and the obvious often happens.

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This article was taken from Issue 200 Spring 2023 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.