Tree-loving new Alton town mayor Cllr Ben Hamlin has been doing his bit for the environment since taking on the role in May.

Cllr Hamlin, who runs tree walks around the town, said: “One of the first things you are asked as they are strapping on the mayoral chain is what charity you will choose as the mayoral charity.

“Of course I chose the Woodland Trust, and already the donations have started.”

The mayor has lived at Alice Holt for 23 years – but before that he had a globetrotting life.

He said: “I was in the middle of a career in medical engineering when I moved to this area, but I barely had time to marry Maureen at the registry office before we were whisked off to Chicago.

“It was my second stint overseas, as I had worked in South and Central America – Brazil, El Salvador and Panama – earlier on. It was funny. Until we returned here in 2000, I had never lived anywhere for more than five years. Since then, I have never wanted to move again. I blame Alice Holt!”

Cllr Hamlin finished his working life as a science teacher, including a spell at Alton College, which allowed him to find time for volunteering at Birdworld, as tree warden for Binsted Parish Council and as tree health surveyor and speaker for the Woodland Trust. He said: “No-one who knows me would have doubted that I would put trees top of my agenda.”

Cllr Hamlin, who has offered to be lead councillor for liaison with the Alton Health and Wellbeing Partnership, added: “It is still early days for me and most of Alton Town Council, but for me it is already transformative.

"The mayoral chain makes most people smile at you and engage you in conversation. Behind every smile, of course, is a complex life, and I am privileged to share a small part. Alton has a lot to be proud of, and I still have to meet a lot of people, but already I know there are many things that make us special.”