A celebration of trees through poetry

25 November 2019

To mark National Tree Week we have selected a number of poems that relate to the trees and woodland in Greater Manchester produced by 'Word in Edgeways', as part of the National Lottery Heritage Funded Carbon Landscape project.

Word in Edgeways is a Boothstown based creative writing group, made up of experienced poetry and prose writers.  Through their love of writing the group are involved with the National Lottery Heritage Funded Carbon Landscape project.  Our Carbon Landscapes are local green spaces that have been altered by industry - and Word in Edgeways are creatively exploring and interpreting the unique characteristics of these landscapes, bringing them to life through their writing and in the process sharing them with a wider audience.

The group have been working with poet Ralph Hoyte to explore how their work can be presented.  Ideas include written formats and also their own spoken words, perhaps digitally embedded in the landscapes that have inspired the writers using apps to develop ‘poetryscapes.’ 

This work will continue to develop, with a publication and performances planned in early 2020.

Miranda Clake from City of Trees comments; "The process of working with Word in Edgeways has been very exciting – a couple of lines of poetry can express aspects of the world around us that is impossible to capture in other way. " She adds; "There is no doubt that this creative and inspiring work will engage more and more people with the landscapes on their doorsteps, as well as the history and heritage of where they live."

As a preview to the work of Word in Edgeways, and to mark National Tree Week we have selected a number of poems that relate to the trees and woodland in Greater Manchester.  

Each poem celebrates trees - from Dorothy Worsley’s poem Autumn that highlights how trees help animals survive through winter, to Karen Lavin’s exploration of the benefits that trees bring to humans in A World without Trees.  

Each poem reminds us not only of the reasons that trees are important, but of their beauty and the emotional connection that we have with trees.  Reading the poems helps visualise these beautiful landscapes even when we can’t be in them.

Watch out for further news on The Carbon Landscape and Word in Edgeways on our website or contact Miranda on miranda@cityoftrees.org.uk


A World Without Trees

Without trees and their flowers life would be dull.

We could not comment how beautiful the seasons are.

Blossom in the spring heralding the summer months.

Fall in the autumn with the last rays of warmth.

Without trees where would the wise owl sit to survey his prey?

What would the koala eat if eucalyptus leaves did not exist?

Orangutans would have nowhere to swing or reside.

Birds would be homeless.

Without trees the world would be paperless.

No toilet paper – now that would be a mess.

No books, no wallpaper, nothing to jot down a poem.

No colouring books for my grandchildren.

Without trees how would we produce fire?

Fire provides warmth, comfort, heat and light;

Enables us to cook food for good nutrition.

How would Brownies toast marshmallows?

Without trees we would have no wood, bark or sap.

No crayons, no paint, no chewing gum,

No soap, no cosmetics, no medicine.

The uses of trees are endless.

Without trees where can lovers etch their initials?

What would a tree hugger hug?

How can children build a special house?

What would happen on November the 5th?

Without trees and their produce we would have no fruit.

No apples, no pears, no coconuts, no dates,

No cherries, no grapefruit, no lemons or limes.

What would I put in my Gin and Tonic?

Without trees there would be no pollination.

No bees, who are already a dying population.

No crops, food shortages, desperation,

Famine and death a nationwide certainty.

Without trees and the production of oxygen

There would be no life, no animals, no women or men.

We cannot breathe without trees.

A world without trees would be catastrophic.

Karen Lavin



September sneaks away

Without saying goodbye,

October casually breezes in

Bringing its odour

You can taste, as well as smell;

The potion of mildew and mould

Clawing at your senses.


At the end of the day

The waning sunlight straggles the trees,

Their canopy shimmering like gold.

A magnificent sunset says good night.


Squirrels and small animals scurry,

Searching for treasure

Cast down from the trees.

They collect a cache of food

Preparing for winter's dearth.


Berries are in abundance,

Succulent treats of red and gold.

Rich nuts lay waiting to be gathered.

Winter could be harsh this year.


Magically, the leaves begin to turn,

Greens slowly morph into vibrant hues

Creating a rainbow of warmth.

Soon they will be brittle, ready to fly.


The sleepy sun sinks into the horizon

Resting until dawn

Then it awakens slowly, silently,

In a profusion of florescent lights.


Grey mist awakens a new day,

Creeping slowly along the ground,

Not making a sound,

Dampening every living thing.


The wind makes its entrance,

Unhinging withered leaves,

Sending them spiralling

Onto the rich carpet below.


Lichen clings to gnarled roots

And brittle bark

Creating patterns of silver, blue, red and green.

Fungus nestles beneath ancient oaks

Waiting to be found.


The forest pile is deep,

All it needs stamping feet,

Children' happy shrieks.

It's the crisp crunching crackling sounds

That make autumn unique.


Spores from the mushrooms

Dance and play in dappled sunlight

Then silently settle on the rich pile

There to rest until next year.


The nesting birds have flown,

Migrated to warmer climates.

Soon the trees will stand bare,

Skeletal branches stretching everywhere,

Reaching for the last shaft of sunlight.

Soon only the evergreens will stand supreme.

Profuse in velvety green.

A true autumnal scene.

Dorothy Worsley


Worsley Woods

The linear way leads me on,

Once a busy railway track

For magical steam trains

Speeding on cold steel tracks

Transporting freight.


The lines are long gone,

Now only phantom trains run.

There is no acrid smoke

Tainting the air

Or snatching my breath.


The pace and rhythm

Of the majestic engine

Pulsates in my heart

And lives deep within my soul.


Now animal life and birdsong are prevalent.

I smell nature at its best and worst.

Silver birch trees are my guide.

The wind chatters among the leaves

Welcoming my arrival.


Three dark tunnels with gaping mouths

Beckoning me to enter if I dare.

I want to reach the loop lines,

The crossroads where the trains changed directions.

The knotted wooden signs

Gouged with information lead me on.

I’m almost there.


Tudor cottages surround Beasley Green,

A hamlet steeped in history.

Then the eroded path leads me in,

Guiding me to the wooden stile.


I’m here, in the dark belly of the woods

Surrounded by ancient oak and sycamore trees

Standing to attention welcoming my arrival.

Their branches nod in approval,

Rustling in the dense canopy above.


Birds prance from tree to tree

Causing rain drops to splatter my face,

Trickling down my brow

Like a cool stream

Refreshing my thirsty lips.


Hedgerows of holly and hawthorn congregate,

Bracken and brambles creep along the stubbly grass

Joining forces with rampant ivy

That clings to pitted bark.


Lime, yellow and orange lichen

Fight for their place too.

Gnarled roots creep along the path

Like wizened fingers grasping for help.


Wooden sculptures hide in the undergrowth,

Flowers, owls, squirrels

All carved from living trees.

There are rustic benches,

Even a giant’s throne.

They grip the woodland floor

Just to stay alive.


Felled logs become bridges spanning the gurgling stream,

Hints of wild garlic tinge the air,

Their white petals now grey, dying,

Only to awake next spring.


The woodland carpet is plaited

In green and brown fibres

Adorned on dense spongy moss.

This season has had its day.

Now I shall wait for summer’s display.


The path meanders lazily,

It’s rough and stony now

I’m on the descent.

I will be at the Delph soon,

Deep in the Worsley Basin.


It’s ghostly down there.

A lone skeletal barge hangs forlorn,

Chained to the cold wall

Like a prisoner in wait.

Many stories haunt the Delph

When the air is still.


Clanking, clinking chains


Melancholy groans

Echo from the maze of tunnels

That snake under ground,

Each telling their stories

Of Worsley’s industrial past.


Dorothy Worsley




Let’s hear it for the trees

Nature’s very own clean up crew, sucking pollutants from the air including smells that quite repel

then when you’re tucked in bed at night, silent so not to cause a fright, they disperse clean air all

 fresh and new.


Let’s hear it for the trees

Nature’s own urban conurbations, multi storey blocks of flats or handsome bungalows quite

compact, except of course as you well know the creatures who make their homes above, feed on the residents down below, but then it was ever thus.


Let’s hear it for the trees

Nature’s own air conditioning unit, which with their leaves cool baking streets by sucking up the

concrete heat and with clever roots collect the water which they evaporate and alter to make the

clouds which cool the air which is really rather neat. 


Let’s hear it for the trees

Nature’s own recycling unit, by shedding leaves which form a mulch to feed a myriad of worms and

bugs to fertilise and give back to the soil the nourishment required by all to keep them producing

offspring and young saplings straight and tall.


Let’s hear it for the trees

Nature’s very own adventure park, with climbing frames and swinging bows, treetop highways, sky

high bridges, building dens in secret spaces for limitless escapades chasing fun lovers or victims in

scores of hide and seeking places.


Let’s hear it for the trees

Nature’s own neighbourhood watch, coffee morning networks swapping info and weather forecasts,

popping chemicals to protect against pest attacks, an underground super highway sharing water and

nutrients, working together to strengthen social contacts.


Let’s hear it for the trees, so no child should ever hear from their parents, grandparents, school

teacher, or whoever, that once in their garden, back yard, playground, street, village, town, there

once was a tree.  




Kathy McNaughton