Creating Brighton & Hove’s first tree trail app and tree map

By Vivienne Barton.

People living in Brighton and Hove can reel off a list of reasons why they like living here; the sea, the Downs; the city’s architecture, the Royal Pavilion, The Lanes with its quirky shops and winding alleyways. But few people will nominate trees as one of the city’s best assets.

Yet Brighton has many world-class trees which deserve to be much better known.

After a year of enforced isolation in Covid lockdown during which thousands of residents discovered the joy and value of nature and the outdoors, this is a good time to introduce some of the city’s best trees not just to local residents but to a much wider audience. I want people to know our special trees so that we can all admire and love them and protect them for future generations.

I have lived in Brighton for more than 20 years and count myself as a tree lover but I had no idea that my city has such a special collection of elm trees, introduced to the UK by our Bronze age ancestors and now inextricably linked to our heritage and culture. Brighton is the custodian of the National Elm Collection because it has 125 different types of elm, more than any city in the world. Many elms were thought to be extinct but recently, with the help of online data, elms not found anywhere else in the world have been discovered thriving here. Dozens have been awarded champion status in the Tree Register, a database of more than 150,000 trees in Britain and Ireland.

So, for the first time, I have managed, with the help of a small number of volunteers, to find and map 60 special trees. They are available on the TiCL tree trail app, and thanks to the services of Rob Newmarch, a graphic artist, who, because of Covid I haven’t yet met there is now a physical map of these trees. Find Rob on Instagram: @Rob.Newmarch.

For me it’s only the beginning. There are probably another 100 trees – not all elm – which deserve to be included in both the tree trail app and an updated map. This thing will grow and grow and with Council backing maybe one day the city will have a tree festival of its own where we can celebrate our trees for their age, beauty, rarity, historical interest and more.

It strikes me as absolutely right that a city celebrates its trees and encourages people to go and see them. It happens for historic buildings why not for trees as well?

The project has taken a lot of time and focus and could not have been done without support from experts, especially tree expert Peter Bourne, member of the Wikipedia elm research group, local volunteers and, in the final stages, Brighton Council.

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In the following video, Vivienne explains the project in more detail:

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