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Running a Tree Canopy Assessment Group

Running a Tree Canopy Assessment Group
  • 18 June 2020

Eryll Fabian talks about the Tree Canopy Assessment Group she runs for Tunbridge Wells U3A.

Soon after lockdown, we were asked to help with the Friends of the Earth project to assess canopy cover in the Tunbridge Wells area. Having read about UTreeA in the February edition of TAM, this seemed worth pursuing. This seemed an ideal project for lockdown as it was something that we could do individually at home.

I contacted groups which might have interested members (walking, wildlife, science, computers etc) to ask if they would like to join a temporary group. 19 of us met on Zoom with David Carey, a Kent Pond and Wildlife Warden

David explained that this is a Citizen Science project which hopes eventually to assess the canopy cover over the whole UK. We learnt a lot about the loss of canopy cover, its value, and what needs to be done. The strategies which most councils have for trees is based on preventing the public from being harmed, whereas they ought to be thinking about the long term benefits of trees.

In Tunbridge Wells, for instance, the cover is comparatively good but not when compared with 30 years ago. He said that planting trees which would not last for at least 30 years, was actually detrimental (the energy used in buying, transporting, planting etc outweighs the benefit derived from the tree) and stressed that maintaining existing trees is often even more important than planting new ones.

15 of us decided to join the group and 9 have made assessments. Two members are Tunbridge Wells Councillors and are hoping to use the results in their Council meetings.

To make an assessment, we first assign a ward to ourselves on the UK Ward Canopy Cover Map at

Then, having entered the ward on the i-Tree Canopy site, we proceed to study about 500 aerial photos of the ward, identifying random points as “tree” or “non-tree”.  It is more difficult than it sounds and is certainly not everyone’s cup of tea!

In our second and final Zoom meeting, we were able to report that we had completed around 50 assessments, mostly in Kent, in the month since we started.

We have now stopped our activities as a group, though a few members are continuing to make sporadic assessments (it becomes quite obsessive!) However, the group remains on Beacon so that when UTreeA takes off, we shall have a list of people who might be interested in joining in.

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