Tree vandalism on the rise

A tree trunk with a ripped off branch hanging down it.
S shredded tree, by Graham Jones

We are lucky that Sheffield boasts the best ratio of trees to people (4:1) of all European cities. Trees in cities bring health and psychological benefits to their residents. They help remove pollution and offer us daily beauty. Some of our trees are by far the oldest inhabitants in our community and deserve to be treated with respect.

A tree trunk with a ripped off branch hanging down it.
A shredded tree, by Graham Jones

A tree trunk with a ripped off branch hanging down it.

In the last issue we reported on trees being deliberately destroyed in Burngreave Cemetery. Now we have had reports from Abbeyfield Park of branches being ripped off trees by children who play with them and then discard them. Some local street trees have also been subject to vandalism by children. Some of our trees already had fatal damage and some were already moribund as a result of vandalism.

A recent walk around Burngreave Cemetery showed about fifty trees had been damaged by humans directly or by people forcing their dogs to bite the bark. A recent victim is a beautiful mature fig tree. There are also reports of people using machetes to strip bark off trees and some of the trees’ wounds would support this. Dogs, like humans, usually have more sense than to wilfully damage trees but, strangely, there are some people who think it is acceptable to damage our local environment.

It is important to recognise that the vast majority of dog owners are responsible and do not encourage their dogs to damage trees. Vandalism is an illegal, anti-social activity that creates a negative impression of an area and contributes to people’s fear of crime. Tree vandalism is a social problem, not a tree problem.

Sheffield City Council does not tolerate this and will prosecute anyone caught damaging the trees. If you see trees being damaged, call the Parks and Countryside Service on 0114 250 0050 or email parksandcountryside@ Or you could call the police on 101. It also might be worth letting the council park wardens know as well as any community groups, such as the Friends of Burngreave Cemetery who look after our green spaces, as they may be able to identify the culprits.

This is a nationwide problem but we need to do something about it locally and soon. Regular police patrols are being considered, signs are being installed to warn people that wanton tree damage will lead to prosecution and some local people are talking about organising a ‘Treewatch’. In the long run, increasing environmental awareness within schools and communities should help reduce vandalism.

The Burngreave Messenger would love to hear your ideas for solutions to this problem.