What Did the Tree See? author Charlotte Guillain inspires audiences to celebrate trees at this year’s Timber Festival

2nd Aug 2022

In this blog post we hear from Charlotte Guillain, author of What Did the Tree See? as she shares her experience of reading her book at this year’s Timber Festival and reveals what inspired her story about an oak tree as it witnesses life changing around it over the course of hundreds of years. 

charlotte guillain


I was lucky enough to perform at this year’s Timber Festival in the National Forest in July. It was my first festival since Covid shut everything down in 2020 and it felt so liberating to be back out in the world, sharing music, food, ideas and love of the environment with so many like-minded people. During lockdown, I spent a lot of time walking in woods and watching the trees change with the seasons. Having access to these green spaces was a lifeline for me. The clear love and respect for the environment shown by everyone I met at Timber told me that I was not alone in this. 

I was invited to Timber to read my children’s picture book What Did the Tree See?, of which 10 pence from each sale is donated by Welbeck Publishing to the National Forest. The book traces the life of an oak tree over hundreds of years, from when it was an acorn up to the present day. Sam Usher’s beautiful illustrations not only show us how the tree has changed over the centuries, but also how the environment around it has changed. The woods around our oak tree are gradually cleared to make space for a village and farmland and then for shipbuilding. The village changes into a town and finally a busy city, full of buildings, train tracks and roads. The book ends with an acorn from the sole remaining tree taking root in the ground and starting to grow. The question to the reader is, ‘What will change in the world around this new tree as it grows?’ 

After reading the book to the children at the festival, I asked them what their hopes and wishes were for the new tree in the book and for all the new trees that have been planted in the National Forest. What sort of world do we hope these trees will be growing in? Sitting together under the oaks that shade the Eyrie Stage, we all felt a strong sense of how crucial trees are for our future. Together we created a piece of art to celebrate the trees and pass on our messages of hope to them. 

My hope is that everyone who reads What Did the Tree See? will feel the same awe that I experience when I think about how insignificant we are next to our ancient trees. Whatever human drama has unfolded over the last thousand years, these trees have remained and endured, providing a home for thousands of species of animal, bird, invertebrate, lichen and fungi. As the climate emergency has become more evident to us this summer, it is more obvious than ever how precious and vital our trees are – whether it’s through us preserving our mature and ancient woodlands or planting new trees for the future, they all deserve our respect and protection. With enough determination, we can make the hopes and wishes of the children who decorated the tree at Timber come true. 

To find out more and to purchase your copy of What Did the Tree See? visit Waterstones website. Remember, for each copy sold our partners Welbeck Publishing donate to support the Forest and help to grow a greener future for everyone.