Seeing the wood for the trees

Trees recycled into garden furniture in charity joint venture 

Local trees otherwise destined for landfill are being turned into handcrafted garden furniture and other bespoke products in a joint venture between The Fifth Trust charity, Canterbury City Council and its parks and grounds contractor, Serco.

The Fifth Trust Horticulture Manager Peter Buscall explains: “Occasionally a tree must be felled in one of the Council’s parks or gardens, or it falls down or becomes diseased. With this new sustainability scheme, timber from these trees can be turned into furniture or other products, giving it a new lease of life. We benefit from being able to sell the resulting products and the Council saves money in landfill costs.”

The trees are sawn into planks by Serco and delivered to The Fifth Trust, an Elham Valley-based charity that offers support and training opportunities to adults with learning disabilities. Skilled carpenters work with the students to carefully craft the recycled trees into bespoke items available to order.

Canterbury City Council’s Senior Contracts Manager for Commissioned Services, Tracy Flower, who is co-ordinating the sustainability project, says: “We have built a strong relationship with The Fifth Trust over the past nine years. The charity’s Vineyard Garden Centre supplies us with plants and hanging baskets and their garden maintenance teams have helped out in our community gardens and cemeteries, as well as supporting In Bloom entries in Canterbury and Herne Bay.

“With this new joint venture sustainability project, every plank can be traced back to its original source. When we remove a tree from an area, we will replace it where appropriate. Other parts of the felled tree can also be reused, with smaller pieces utilised for bird boxes and other wood products, and the remainder seasoned and made available as logs for wood burners. Money raised from selling benches and tables will be spent on the area from where the tree was removed. It makes for sound environmental good practice, provides additional amenities for the public and supports The Fifth Trust’s work.”

The Fifth Trust aims to provide a safe and fulfilling way of life for adults with learning disabilities through enjoyable and productive work in the local community and in its garden centre and café. It complements this with a broad range of creative, horticultural and academic activities. General Manager Nikki Marley adds: “Our woodworking department – the “woodshack” – is going from strength to strength. Our students really enjoy working on the tables and benches and it’s great to see their confidence and self esteem grow when they see the results of their labours being enjoyed and appreciated.”

Anyone interested in purchasing one of the recycled tree products should contact Mike Theoff on 01227 831052 or email

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