Tree Guardians Canopy 2050 are Working to Restore Nottinghamshire’s Canopy

Words: Helene Laanest
Illustrations: Zhara Millett
Tuesday 12 March 2024
reading time: min, words

Helene Laanest, director of Canopy 2050, and her collective of tree guardians are working hard to restore Nottinghamshire’s canopy. Helene tells us about the project and how she sees it growing…

Group PDF Export

One day during lockdown, I was walking on the Bramcote Ridge and I picked up a few acorns which I later planted. As I planted them I thought, wouldn’t it be good if lots of people did this? Then we could help our councils by providing free trees and labour, and help them to meet their national tree planting goals. The idea just wouldn’t go away until eventually I asked my local council what they thought of the idea. They were really enthusiastic and supportive and committed to finding locations to plant trees grown by Broxtowe residents. Really I was planning to start in Autumn 2021 with seed collecting, but a surprise ‘gift’ of six sacks of sprouting acorns from an old tree in Bramcote prompted me to start sooner. I took this gift as a sign that this project had to start ASAP.

I started Canopy 2050 back in the Spring of 2021. Based in Beeston, the community based tree growing project has found full enthusiasm from our tree guardians. Connie, a guardian from Beeston, has adopted twenty sprouting acorns near the start of the project, of which fifteen are now planted in Bramcote Hills park. She now has fifteen Buckthorn, five Blackthorn, an Alder and some Guedler-rose. “At 76, it is great to think that well after I’m gone, there will be mature trees around Nottingham because I nurtured them” she says.

But what exactly do we do at Canopy 2050?

In a nutshell we collect native tree seeds and then distribute them to people who then plant them and nurture them until they are ready to plant out. Right now there are about 500 mini nurseries spread across Nottingham in peoples’ gardens and allotments.

People feel so helpless in the face of climate change and this is something that anyone can do and feel that they are making a real, if small, difference. It doesn’t cost money and it is so satisfying. Claire, one of our guardians over in Wollaton says, “It feels like I’m making a small but tangible contribution to improving the environment in our local area. It is an interesting thought that some of my seedlings might still be around in hundreds of years!”

It feels like I’m making a small but tangible contribution to improving the environment in our local area. It is an interesting thought that some of my seedlings might still be around in hundreds of years!

Ideally I like the guardians who grew them to bring them along and plant them out themselves. That way they know where they are and they can visit them in years to come, maybe water them in dry times. So far the planting sites have been given by Broxtowe Borough Council but as the project grows I hope to get other councils on board and include private land too. I’ll try to get trees planted anywhere where there is an obvious lack of tree cover. One of the next plans is to offer free trees and the planting of them to residents in tree depleted streets. We have to increase the urban tree canopy in every place we can in order to keep temperatures down, improve biodiversity and open new green corridors for wildlife.

We’ve got a really broad range of people becoming tree guardians. In terms of age, there are some really young children growing trees with their parents and teachers and I think the oldest guardian (that I know the age of) is 86. It’s something anyone can do with very little space, you don’t have to be an avid gardener. But of course the main driver for peoples’ participation is the desire to fight the climate crisis.

Ingrid, another one of our Beeston-based guardians put it perfectly as to what’s motivating people to join the project. She says, “I passionately believe in the UK needing to plant more trees and hedges, not just for carbon capture, but helping our wildlife. Instead of just giving money to organisations for other people to plant trees, I am pleased I can contribute by growing and looking after saplings in my garden. I also like the fact that this project is local to where I live, so that in the future I will be able to see my saplings growing and showing them to my grandchildren.”

Canopy 2050 has already gone so much further than I ever imagined. It’s so nice to meet so many like minded people, and people who come to share the passion for growing trees, it truly is a rewarding experience, so exciting when the first shoots come up, so exciting when the first leaves open, so worrying when the leaves drop in winter and such a relief when new leaves come the following Spring. I don’t want to say that it is like having a baby… but there is an amazingly compelling connection between a person and their tree babies!

My aims are ambitious right now, it’s working amazingly in Broxtowe now and I’m now recruiting guardians from further afield and talking to other councils and businesses with land where we could potentially plant. I’m always on the lookout for possible planting sites and I plan to start working on tree depleted streets across the county. But who knows, tree growing is something that anyone can do, who knows where it might end?

Over in Stapleford, Chantel says, “I find it rewarding, it's pretty cool to watch the little tree grow in my garden and become strong enough to go into the world and be planted. It's a really proud and exciting moment.”

Want to get involved? Get in touch at [email protected] to get seed delivered or posted to you.

We have a favour to ask

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion

Please note, we migrated all recently used accounts to the new site, but you will need to request a password reset

Sign in using

Or using your

Forgot password?

Register an account

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.

Forgotten your password?

Reset your password?

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.