It seems like a long time ago now – back in 2017 I was given the enormous privilege of writing poetry to be carved into tree poles across England. As part of the legacy of the Tree Charter, ten poles are being placed in the UK to mark the ten principles enshrined in the Charter. Eight of these poles are in England, there’s one in Scotland, one in Wales, and one in Northern Ireland. And there’s a Champion Pole in Lincoln.
In November 2017, precisely 800 years after the creation of the Forest Charter, Rob and I celebrated the launch of the new Charter for Trees, Woods and People in Lincoln Castle, and the installation of the Champion Pole was part of this. But in the run up to that, for many months, we’d been keeping quiet about the plans while the many elements came together. Tens of thousands of stories had been gathered from across the UK, through the Tree Charter campaign, and all of these were read and considered. From them, ten clear principles emerged; my role was to create short poems to reflect the stories and the principles that represent them.
Although the poles are huge – five metres tall – there isn’t much room for lettering, so I set to work composing poems with no more than thirty words out of a vast amount of material. I began by reading many, many stories, played with computer-generated word clouds, and then made notes on five-metre long roles of paper, gradually distilling, distilling and simplifying. Eventually I came up with words to match eight of the principles that also suited the location of the tree poles. Carver Simon Clements has been working for many months inscribing the words, which spiral up the poles together with motifs that reflect what has been written.
Having one of the poles in Grizedale Forest is very special. Grizedale is on our doorstep, it’s also where we launched The Long View exhibition in midsummer 2017, and it is home to treefold:centre, one of the three Cumbrian treefolds we created last year. Grizedale was the first UK forest to host land art, and continues this tradition of combining art and nature in a working forest. It’s a great place to lose yourself among a huge variety of trees and sculptures, each one changing over time as the forest changes.
The words on the Grizedale Forest tree pole reflect the principle of Strengthening landscapes (read more about this, and discover the other principles, here).
look up and see:
at things unseen:
how trees knit land,
slow water’s flow,
keep air clean,
and hold earth’s health
in wood and leaves.
The pole is close to Kennels Car Park, set on an accessible trail. You can read the poem by slowly circling the tree pole – it takes ten circuits!
Find out more about Grizedale Forest, how to get there, the walking and cycling routes, the sculptures, and what’s on, through the Grizedale Sculpture website.
To discover more about the Tree Charter follow this link. And if you haven’t yet signed the charter, you can join thousands of others by adding your name.
The poles are in place or will be appearing across the UK in the following locations – is there one near you?
- Bute Park, Cardiff
- Belvoir Wood, Belfast
- Langs Craig, Dumbarton
- Grizedale Forest, Lake District
- Sherwood Forest, Nottingham
- Manchester City Forest Park
- New Forest National Park Visitor Centre
- Sylva Wood Centre, Abingdon
- Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Liverpool
- Burnhall Viewing Point, Durham