“Timber!” is a word that I perhaps rather fancifully imagine is being uttered on our somewhat green and pleasant campus with increasing regularity. Whilst the image of Pythonesque lumberjacks at work on University Park is a bit laughable, however, the results are anything but. For campus is more and more a forest of stumps than a forest of vaulting trunks and swaying branches. The chainsaw is the new dominant form of wildlife.
There are many reasons to hack down trees, I suppose. However, fuel or building materials seem unlikely reasons in Nottingham, judging by the steel form of the new biochemistry building rising in Science City. Perhaps it’s to improve the aesthetic look of campus. The large-scale demolition of a copse near the School of the Built Environment last week admittedly exposed a rather fine pagoda to public view, but I don’t think anyone’s ever seriously thought that the Hallward Library needs far less to hide its light under a bushel (ahem). And given a chance, I’d bury the George Green under a mound of ivy.
Safety is probably the inevitable and final word on this matter. One wouldn’t want to be pancaked by a toppling poplar, after all. I must say though that I’ve never felt particularly threatened by the once-sturdy-looking trees swaying around the Hallward (I say ‘once’ because now a substantial minority of them are heaps of woodchip). And ironically, the one tree that I have seen damaged by wind during my four years on campus still stands, scarred by the loss of its limb.
Worst of all is the observable fact that the University seems to be planting few new saplings, and those weak and weedy things offer neither the architectural appeal of a mighty trunk nor inspire much confidence that from small acorns into mighty oaks they will grow. Where will students seek refuge from the beating suns of summer or the hard rains of winter? Anyone who’s ever tried to seek refuge under a ten-year-old Robinia will realise that saplings offer little protection from either. More worryingly, perhaps, those same saplings have little protection from us when we’ve got a bit too much special sap from the Ark pulsing through our veins.
So Estates, I say to you: stop the madness. Trim our trees, but not into Frankenstinian amputees like the sad specimen on the Downs. And if you do have to topple one of our green giants, at least plant three more small ones…