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Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees

Oscar-winning Dame Judi Dench is one of Britain’s best-loved actresses, but few people know that Judi holds another great passion, a deep love for trees. This programme, filmed over the course of a year, is a magical study of the changing seasons and their effect on Surrey, the most-wooded county in Britain. Judi has long been fascinated with 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. For the past seven years, she has continued to care for this woodland with her close companion, wildlife enthusiast David Mills. Throughout this time, Judi has continually planted trees for dear friends and family who have passed away.

This film follows Judi’s experience through the seasons and her mission to understand the vital role of trees in history and the future. Judi joins some of the best tree scientists and historians to unlock the remarkable secret lives of trees and the stories that they cannot tell. With the latest scientific techniques and equipment at her disposal, she is able to truly understand how trees work, and gain an insight into their secrets. She meets a designer with a special microphone to hear the trees around her pulsing with life in spring, as water rushes up the trunks to the newly-unfurled leaves. Plus a scientist with 3D scanning technology reveals her favourite oak in a new light, uncovering an astonishing 260,000 leaves and a vast network of branches measuring over 12km.

Through the cycle of the four seasons, Judi discovers how trees feel, learns how they communicate and how they fight off invading armies and extreme weather. From NASA satellite imagery, Judi is shown just how effective trees are as carbon capture machines that are fighting to protect our planet. A fungi expert also shows Judi the incredible action going on beneath her feet, revealing an astonishing underground fungal network that looks up to the tips of tree roots, connecting many trees in a forest together. It’s an incredible system known as the ‘wood wide web’. It’s confirmation for Judi that trees aren’t just trees, they are a real community that help each other, humans and the planet.

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