26th July 2016
The ATF welcomes its new Chair
Russell Miller, the new Chair of the Ancient Tree Forum, introduces himself and sets out his hopes for the future of the charity
I was very excited when I discovered the Ancient Tree Forum and attended my first field meeting. It was like joining a group of like-minded friends I didn’t know I had. I was therefore intrigued when ATF advertised for a new chair and very honoured to be asked to try and fill Brian Muelaner’s shoes.
The recent Dorset Summer Conference was a huge success with the usual diversity, and growing number, of delegates. I officially took over as chair on the second day of the conference but have already participated in my first meeting as a member of the board of trustees. For those unfamiliar with the board of trustees, a huge amount of work on a large array of projects and partnerships goes on behind the scenes.
As for the conference, a couple of my highlights were Keith Alexander’s ‘Continuity Brown’ presentation, demonstrating how the deadwood beetle data contradicts the simplistic pollen data based model of closed canopy wildwood; and Koen Smet’s research on lime avenues in Belgium. Of course the trees were the real stars and the discussions about shading of a veteran oak at Ringmoor and how to prevent the imminent collapse of a hollow ash at Herringston Estate were the key tree management debates. I am already looking forward to Wimpole in October.
A little bit about me
My main interests are: trees, beetles, bees, fungi, social justice and problem solving. Following a 14 year career as a litigation solicitor at one of the country’s leading civil rights law firms, I left the legal profession to be closer to nature. I retrained and am privileged in being able to focus my energies where I feel they bring the greatest benefit to trees, wildlife and people. A significant part of my arb career has been to develop organisations that connect people with trees, be that in urban parks or the Scottish Highlands. I helped to set up two successful community tree groups in London – the Tree Musketeers and the Urban Orchard Project – and I have worked with Trees for Life in Scotland for many years.
The Tree Musketeers (TMs) is a Hackney-based volunteer group uniquely combining the public openness of Tree Wardens with professional arboricultural expertise. The group plants and maintains trees in Hackney’s parks. In 2009 the founders of the Urban (formerly London) Orchard Project approached me to advise them on arboriculture. UOP has grown rapidly over the last 6 years (100 new orchards so far) and I continue to act as a consultant on arboriculture, veteran tree management, entomology and ecology. I have been leading residential conservation weeks for Trees for Life since 2003. I have also advised the charity on tree establishment, ecology, entomology and arboriculture.
My other primary focus for the last 10 years has been studying, protecting and enhancing Abney Park Cemetery Nature Reserve in North London. Planted as a world class arboretum in 1840, this urban woodland site has an important collection of veteran poplars and ash, as well as some rare remnant arboretum specimens. I have chaired since I helped create it in 2010. It is a multi-disciplinary networking group concerned with all aspects of environmental and social sustainability.
I am excited about helping to steer the ATF into what will hopefully be a consolidation phase where all the hard work done up to now bears fruit in training, funding, partnerships and most of all protection for our ancient and veteran trees. The ATF is growing and with the help of those who have been around a lot longer than I, we will continue to build a network of people and expertise worthy of the UK’s internationally important collection of old trees.