The Battle for Sheffield’s trees


From The Tree Protectors ©Chris Saunders

The drive from Edale into Sheffield takes you past the peaks and green hills of the Hope Valley then, depending on the route you choose, up and over the vast expanse of moorland at Ringinglow or through the stunning Longshaw Estate, dotted with gritstone outcrops and fringed with woodland. The first signs of the city are small farms and the beginnings of rural suburbs, but the approach never jars, you are beckoned in gently, the nature continues. Ancient Ecclesall Woods sits comfortably amid the suburban streets, while the houses have old, guardian trees of their own. The branches spread out over you past bustling parks and the lovely Botanical Gardens until you are suddenly in the epicentre of the city.

The trees were the first thing I loved about Sheffield, but they are under attack. A battle between City Council and city residents is being fought as thousands of healthy, beautiful, familiar trees have been earmarked for destruction – and the felling is already well underway. The race to save Sheffield’s trees has enflamed not only the passions of those well-versed in green issues, but hundreds of others so sad, so angry and so incredulous that a disastrous ‘pact with the devil’ between Council and private contractor could result in the culling of so many old friends.

Protests are in abundance, legal action has been attempted, rules broken in desperation, arrests been made. MPs have dipped their toes into the melee, condemning the felling and promising action, and the city’s most famous have added their voices in protest. Artists, photographers, writers, musicians – of which there are many in this blossoming cultural powerhouse of a city – have watched, absorbed, felt and created. Portrait photographer Chris Saunders has created The Tree Protectors a series of images depicting those arrested while trying to stop the felling, while artist Dan Llywelyn Hall will lead more than 100 fellow artists next week in a “mass painting” of the Western Road memorial trees, many of which are on the list for destruction.

The battle goes on.



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