“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth” – Herman Hesse

After two years of lockdowns and the lingering presence of a global pandemic, many of us Beestonians have found respite and restorative escape in nature.

We are very fortunate to be located in a part of Nottinghamshire where green spaces are within relative ease of access, daily exercise in our parks and traversing through the streets have given many of us the opportunity – should we wish to observe it – to take time to take in our trees. They have served to provide markers to seasonal rhythms and offering up larger philosophical perspectives: that the global pandemic may be ongoing, but non-human lives remain consistently persevering in their seasonal rhythms ignorant of stressful news headlines. Trees offers – as Hesse quote states – sanctuary, for those who take the time to observe them closely and choose to spend contemplative time in their company.

So as January drifts into February and beyond (February 1st celebrated by Pagans as Imbolc, the equal point between Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox) and early spring, do check-in on your favourite Beeston trees – how are they doing? What are their buds looking like? How do they feel? What size are they? What is their colouration? Buds are a useful indicator when identifying species of deciduous trees in the winter when no leaf foliage is available from which to make identification. There are a number of smart phone apps that can ease this process (for example, Plant Identifier) as well as books you can find in Beeston Public Library.

Taking time to look closely, you will notice the different coloration of twigs from which the lateral and terminal buds (side and tip of twig buds) emanate. It is good to check in on deciduous trees at different times of year as they serve not only as a marker of seasonal shifts, but the more we take time to appreciate just one tree, say hello to it, look closely and study it, the more grounded and connected we become to worlds beyond the politics and confusion of the human world.

While we might not live in a forest, this small act is a nod to the Japanese practice of Shintin-yoku or ‘forest-bathing’. Taking time to be calm and quiet amongst trees or with just one tree, observing the nature around you and noticing your breath and slowing your breathing pattern can help all humans to de-stress and boost a sense of wellbeing and connection. In the last few years, many people have felt dislocation and disconnection from loved ones, but have taken some time to appreciate, value and connect with the trees in our streets, parks, gardens, nature reserves, canals, on the verges of rivers and railway tracks. These places might not be a ‘forest’ as such, but taking time to look, listen and observe their presence can help us connect with our own imaginations and ourselves. We can become more us, restoring a sense of balance and calm, albeit momentarily, in our lives, and practised regularly, those moments can become precious regular practice in connecting with the trees and nature that surrounds us and in turn enrich our daily lives.

If you are reading this and thinking, ‘well, this all sounds great but I’m not going to do that in the middle of The Square’, we might have the solution. I have had a number of enquiries over the four years I have contributed the Trees of Beeston column about the possibility of running a walking tour so that people can find out a little bit more about our arborial heritage.

So it is with great excitement to provisionally announce that an inaugural Trees of Beeston Tour will take place in late spring (sometime towards the middle of June but To Be Announced) with a focus on Central Beeston’s trees; the ones we pass everyday: on foot to and from work, school drop-offs and pick-ups. The tour will be hosted by myself on behalf of the Beeston and District Civic Society and I would value the input of Beestonian readers for suggestions as to their favourite Central Beeston trees. Do drop The Beestonian an email if you have any ideas / suggestions: thebeestonian@gmail.com

Happy Beeston ‘forest-bathing’ and bud–identifying,

Dr JN