During the course of the first lockdown in 2020, George told me about his latest personal photography project about trees, what he was trying to achieve and directly asked me "what's your favourite tree?". I was unable to answer the question. I know some of the science about trees and their contribution to the environment, but couldn't name a favourite. It was a brief conversation.
Some weeks later, as the rules relating to social distancing relaxed, George and I got together to play tennis. Whilst waiting to get on court, George was introduced to Jeff and they spoke for some time about their mutual love of trees, each describing their personal favourite. Their enthusiasm was infectious. I listened with interest but kept on saying to myself "why can't I have a favourite tree?". I was personally disappointed and frustrated by this but kept it to myself.
One of the ways I like to relax is to cycle. Since childhood, I love the independence, freedom and sense of adventure that a bicycle gives to someone as well as a closer connection to nature. I feel very fortunate to live in the Cotswolds and to be able to enjoy what the countryside has to offer. My favourite road to cycle is between the villages of Tarlton and Kemble, about six miles south west of Cirencester. This stretch of road is about a mile long and, in the autumn of 2020, I cycled along this country lane. As I headed south from Tarlton and turned the pedals I shouted "I DO have a favourite tree!!! In fact, I have many favourite trees!!!". I just hadn't fully understood why I loved this road so much until I was inspired by the conversation between George and Jeff.
So what do my favourite trees mean to me? My favourite stretch of road is flanked by my favourite trees. There's a warm welcome whenever I arrive where I feel that I'm greeted by friends. Sometimes if it can feel like spectators have lined the road to encourage the riders of a peloton in a cycle race. My favourite trees also look out for me. In the winter, they shelter me from the wind and rain. In the summer, they protect me from the sun. Irrespective of the time of year, it was looks so beautiful.
Do I know the species of my favourite tree? Not yet. Will this frustrate some? Maybe. Does this concern me? Not really as I read the brief, made my own interpretation and George has brought this to life.
Thank you George for continuing to challenge and inspire me in equal measure.