Dame Judi’s Passion For Trees Filmed on Wildlife Trust Reserves

Thursday 14th December 2017

Dame Judi Dench - Photo by Sarah DunnDame Judi Dench - Photo by Sarah Dunn

Surrey Wildlife Trust's Patron Dame Judi Dench is one of Britain's best-known actresses, but a new BBC programme reveals she has another great love - a passion for trees.

The hour-long documentary was filmed on some of The Trust’s most beautiful nature reserves, including ancient woodland at Nower Wood and Norbury Park near Leatherhead and the stunning scenery of Shere Woodlands, near Guildford. 

‘Judi Dench: My Passion For Trees’ uses amazing 3D scanning technology to study the changing seasons and their effect on Surrey, the most-wooded county in England. 

“The film crew visited our reserves several times to capture the wonderful woodland throughout the year,” said James Herd, the Trust’s Commercial Development Officer.

“It’s fantastic to see someone as high profile as Dame Judi Dench with such a passion for wildlife and so enthusiastic about the topic of trees – subjects that are at the very heart of our work here at the Trust. It was a privilege to spend some time with Dame Judi and we’re really looking forward to showing off our beautiful woodlands to a wider audience.”

Dame Judi is an Oscar and BAFTA winning actress, famous for her 60-year career on stage and screen - including starring roles as Queen Victoria in Mrs Brown, Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare In Love and as spy boss ‘M’ in the James Bond film series. 

She has been Patron of Surrey Wildlife Trust since 2014 and has particular interest in the rebuilding of its new £1.2m education centre, which is nestled in ancient woodland at the private Nower Wood reserve. The centre was opened by the Countess of Wessex in April this year.

Dame Judi has been fascinated by trees ever since she was a child. She shared her passion with her late husband, actor Michael Williams, and together they nurtured a collection of trees at the bottom of their six-acre garden. This woodland has been added to with trees planted for friends and family who have passed away.

The BBC film follows Dame Judi's journey to unlock the remarkable secret lives of trees and the stories that they cannot tell. She joins some of the best tree scientists and historians using the latest scientific techniques and equipment to learn more about Surrey’s woodlands. 

The actress even listens to the trees around her pulsing with life in spring as water rushes up the trunks to the newly unfurled leaves. And she uses 3D scanning technology to show that her favourite oak is 200 years old and 20m high, with a vast network of branches measuring over 12km!

The Trust manages some of the county’s most amazing landscapes, including sweeping heathland, beautiful wild flower meadows and enchanting woodlands. Using a grant of £8,100 from The Bannister Charitable Trust, Surrey Wildlife Trust has set up a dedicated website aimed at promoting the county’s stunning countryside for use on the big and small screen. 

“Filming on our sites is very carefully managed,” added James. “Fees charged for the use of the land for filming is ploughed back into the Trust’s work caring for and conserving Surrey’s countryside for the benefit of people and wildlife."

Woodlands on sites managed by the Trust are maintained for the benefit of wildlife. Sustainable timber that comes from forestry work is often sent to the Trust's sawmill at Norbury Park. The wood is then turned into countryside furniture using traditional methods. Find out more about Norbury Park Wood Products here.

‘Judi Dench: My Passion For Trees’ is on BBC One on Wednesday 20 Dec at 8pm. You can find a Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve near you by visiting our reserve pages - why not head out for a winter walk amongst the trees? 

Tagged with: Business, Events & Shows, Living Landscapes, Photography & The Arts, Species