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William Wordsworth was a keen planter of trees—from the Dove Cottage garden to the grounds at Rydal Mount, to landed estates, friends’ houses, and the local churchyard—he planted a variety of deciduous and evergreen specimens ‘under [his] own eye & principally if not entirely by [his] own hand’. This talk will explore the cultural and environmental significance of Wordsworthian tree planting in the English Lake District. It will consider how and why tree planting was meaningful to the Wordsworths as a public, private, and multi-generational endeavour; how William cultivated a reputation as a tree planting authority in the region; and what this living heritage contributes to our existing understanding of both the poet and the environs in which he lived. For generations, tree planting in Cumbria has been undertaken for a variety of purposes. Trees are planted in the edges and hedges of farmland, for agro-forestry and timber, for biodiversity, rewilding, and flood defences, and to retain the national park’s ‘picturesque’ appearance. The pressing nature of the climate crisis has highlighted an urgent need to plant more trees, and respectively, this has meant that tree cover and planting in the Lake District has become a significant environmental and socio-political issue. In building a picture of Wordsworth as a planter and care-taker of trees, this talk will also reflect on how the poet’s arboricultural perspectives might correlate with, and add to, current discourses surrounding tree planting in the region today.

Dr Anna Burton is a Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Derby. Her research focuses on representations of trees and woodland spaces in nineteenth century literature and culture. Anna published her monograph, Trees in Nineteenth-Century English Fiction: The Silvicultural Novel, in 2021, and is currently working on her new project, 'Tree Planting and the English Lake District: A Literary and Arboreal History'.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.