CHILDREN are being urged to give their body and soul a boost by hugging a tree.

The call comes from David Glass, head gardener at the Bowood Estate between Chippenham and Calne, who says it can help to reduce anxiety and social isolation.

He said: “‘The ideal ‘starter’ tree for a youngster to befriend would be an acer. It’s small enough for a toddler to embrace completely and call it their own, while its growth is established enough not to require a protective shield as saplings do.”

Mr Glass singles out redwoods for a hug with some 20 of them spread out across the Bowood grounds.

“With its soft red and downy bark, a redwood is very appealing. Some are the ideal size for a couple to embrace together while others with a greater circumference are large enough to require a family group to wrap their arms around.”

Along with head groundsman, Geoff Partridge, he is urging children to get to know trees better and explore the wide, open spaces at Bowood.

The first ‘Tree-hugging World Championships’ were held in Finland in August 2020 with the country’s second annual event being broadcast earlier this month from HaliPuu forest.

Similarly, Iceland’s Forestry Service urged its citizens to head outside and embrace a tree to reduce social isolation and anxiety as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold last year.

“With our arboretum featuring trees of all ages and sizes, from saplings to Bowood’s 23 ‘champion’ trees – the largest or tallest of their kind recorded in Britain and Ireland - visitors should keep an eye out for the ones that take their fancy, in all their autumnal-hued finery,” he suggests.

“One of the acers is in fact classified as a ‘champion’ tree: the Acer rubrum October glory.

“Twenty-two metres high and with a diameter of 69 centimetres, it is to be found on the northern perimeter of the pinetum, among a group of acers. It was planted here in 1977 to mark the Silver Jubilee year.

“As children make their way across the Pleasure Grounds, they should also look out for acorns and conkers on the ground, pick them up, feel them and marvel at how oak and horse chestnut trees once began,” Mr Glass said.

“Look out also for the yellow leaves, white peeling bark and medium size of Silver Birches. Through a gap in the pinetum you can spy a large plantation of them along the northern rim of the Pleasure Grounds.

“The grandeur of champion trees will be better appreciated from a distance to bring them into full visual frame – and for the layering of crimsons, ambers and golds across the landscape.

“The ‘champion’ Cedar of Lebanon is Bowood’s most stately and historic tree and our archives contain the docket recording that 22 cones were ordered between 1768 and 1769, each priced at one shilling - £5 in today’s money.

“It is one of those cones that has produced the ‘champion’ cedar that today stands at 39 metres high. With a diameter of 215 centimetres it would take a very large family to extend their arms around it completely. Alongside its heady scent, its textured and rugged bark is well worth a caress.”

But Mr Glass has words of caution for families, saying some of Bowood’s trees are there to be admired with the eye rather than by touch.

“A Monkey Puzzle tree is such an example with its spiky surface while the Chinese fir known as the Cunninghamia Lanceolata has prickly (as ‘lanceolata’ is translated) leaves.

“There are needles to avoid on the group of three Californian nutmeg trees. The indigenous people of North America once used their needles for tattooing, it must be remembered.”

Tree planting at Bowood is a tradition that spans almost 300 years: from when ‘Capability’ Brown first landscaped the Estate’s parkland and with every generation of the Lansdowne family since then.

In the past 50 years alone more than one million trees have been planted across the Estate.

Bowood’s arboretum features 700 different species alongside the 23 ‘champion’ trees. Dating back to the 1840s, the pinetum’s layout is inspired geographically with various species placed according to the longitude and latitude of their natural habitat.

Bowood’s complete Tree Guide – with an introduction by Lord Lansdowne and a preface from Roy Lancaster - can be downloaded at: https://www.bowood.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Tree-Book-updated-June-2021.pdf

Bowood House & Gardens is open daily until November 1 from 11am-6pm with last admissions at 5pm. Bowood House is open from 11.30am-3.30pm.

Entrance tickets must be booked online ahead of arrival at www.bowood.org/bowood-house-gardens/tickets/