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A great many trees and hedges were planted, all over Rothbury, several years ago. Tree protection was put on them, but no maintenance was done on looking after the trees as they grew.

Whenever we can, Rothbury Tree Wardens go out on 'Free the Tree' missions.

Several of us helped these poor mature trees recently.

This is what we found inside many tree guards. The plastic had grown brittle and shattered on removal, and had dug into the lower parts of the trunk. Vegetation grows up inside and rots the bark. Poor trees!

Look how big they have grown, and the 'protection' turns into the opposite - actually harming the trees.

We managed to remove some in one piece, but most shattered and broke into hundreds of horrible plastic bits.

Thankfully, everyone now seems to be aware of the problems of using plastic guards. Not only are they ugly, (once you start noticing them you see them everywhere) they are also harmful to the environment.

The Woodland Trust says:

Our tree planting dilemma

Plastic is a problem. It doesn’t biodegrade and it's not environmentally friendly. Yet it's often turned to for its longevity and effectiveness when it comes to protecting young trees from damage.

We know it's a concern for our supporters, and the scourge of plastic pollution and the climate emergency make it an issue we urgently need to address. We will plant 2.3 million saplings on our estate by 2025, and up to half will need protection from deer, or else they simply get eaten before they can establish. How do we balance this requirement with the need for sustainability?

The Government also has begun to recognise the problems caused by plastic tree guards:

Tree shelters and guards can be made from a wide range of materials. To date, most have been made from plastics made from petrochemicals. These are not biodegradable and must be removed after use and recycled. Others use petrochemically derived plastics, but have additional materials that result in the tree shelter or guard breaking down into small pieces. However, the small fragment size means they cannot be recovered from the environment. We do not recommend their use. More recent designs use plant-based sources, compressed paper, or cardboard. Issues have arisen over the longevity of these as they need to be designed and constructed to provide adequate protection throughout the establishment of the tree. There are alternatives to using tree shelters or guards – this includes fencing or, where predation of the trees is minimal, no individual protection. Read the full guidance here: Tree protection: The use of tree shelters and guards - GOV.UK (

Northumberland County Council, in launching the Tree Warden Scheme in Rothbury, very kindly supplied 150 saplings that we planted at Beggars Rigg. Although there is a great demand now (good!) for biodegradable guards, they were able to source these, but only the tiny ones. NCC is very generously going to replace these now with larger guards. We are very grateful to the Climate Team and NCC for this.

Rowan planted at the tree launch, quickly growing, and now through the guard.

We have managed to reuse some larger guards, in an effort to help these saplings which have been nibbled by hares, or possibly deer.

To maintain these saplings planted at the launch of the Tree Warden Scheme, we drew up a rota, and each week one Tree Warden goes to the site to check on each tree. We clear weeds away from the base. The large trees by the plaque are watered regularly too.

Rothbury Tree Wardens are continuing their work to 'Free the Trees'. If you would like to help one time, just get in touch. Email


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