Thursday, 22 December 2016

Talking Trees at Number 57

It's late we know, but we didn't want the year to end without mention of a rather understated, but really rather wonderful evening hosted by our friend Mary McGeown, the owner of Number 57 on Loampit Hill. 

On Sunday 30th October, a group of us gathered in the beautiful space shared with L'Oculto Wine & Tapas Bar (who provided us with delicious plates of tapas, and a glass of wine, included in the ticket price) to hear spontaneous, unscripted, real-life 5 minute stories about trees, and the myriad and mysterious ways that they inspire us. 

The occasion was also an opportunity for artist Isobel Kimberly to display a selection of drawings featuring trees, one of which featured on our flier:

The stories ranged from dark encounters with wild beasts in Kentish woods, to the blazingly bright memories of thorn trees from a childhood in South Africa, to wistful and poetic musings on family trees and waxing and waning relationships ... 

And as if that wasn't enough, the assembled throng helped swell our coffers by nearly £300!

Our grateful thanks to Mary, the team at L'Oculto, Isobel, and all our contributors; it was a night to remember. 

Ana & Teresa from L'Oculto
Standing room only!
Our brilliant compere Stanley Silva
Mary starts the evening off

India shows us how it's done!

Well, here's an end of year good news story (and my word, do we need more of them!) ...

In Uttar Pradesh, India, activists have planted almost 50 million trees in just 24 hours! We thought this was some sort of crazed exaggeration when we first read it, but no — it happened on July 11 and took 800,000 people. It was part of a pledge the country made at the 2015 climate change summit in Paris to increase its forest cover by 235m acres by 2030. 

The Indian government has put aside £5bn to plant trees all over India to combat air pollution.

For full story, go here

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Labelling the legacy

During the summer readers may have noticed the appearance of new dark green labels on more than one hundred trees planted in and around Brockley since 2012. 

The labels are one of the Tree Committee’s initiatives to publicise the scheme, delivered in partnership with Lewisham Council. In this era of desperately tight budgets, the council has been a willing partner in an initiative to build on the green legacy of a more affluent time. We enjoy over 10,000 trees on Lewisham streets but according to the council's own records, there are around 2,000 unused pits, and countless potential planting sites. All await trees!

For this winter's planting, we have raised money for dozens of individual trees, and we have agreement in principle for several larger schemes. Please watch this space!

In appreciation of sponsorship so far, and to alert readers to the possibility, the Tree Committee wants to remind readers that all planting is the result of local fundraising efforts and generosity. Brockley is incredibly lucky in this regard, and with your help will continue to be so. Private residents, businesses and local assembly members have all given time and energy and funds to enable the planting. Equally important, the scheme has benefitted from regular and practical help. For every tree, Brockley Society works with a local volunteer willing to water the tree for its first two years.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Tree Committee's work recognised by Forestry Commission

Last Thursday we were very proud winners of one of the annual awards that the Forestry Commission makes ...
  •  To celebrate the work of individuals, communities and professionals to protect, improve and expand the capital's tree and woodland cover
  • To inspire others to manage their trees and woodland
  • To raise the profile of London’s trees / woodlands and the need for management

We were nominated for the Community Tree Award by our friends and colleagues in Lewisham Council's Green Scene department for 'tree projects that have been inspired, driven, and delivered by local community groups'.  

The awards were held at City Hall on the 9th floor known as "London's Living Room", and presented by Sir Harry Studholme, Chair of the Forestry Commission: 

And here we are on the podium: 

Special mention to Dom (our amazingly hard-working Administrator) centre, holding the award certificate, and Anthony and Nicola (below), founding members of Brockley Society Tree Committee. Not pictured is our colleague Rick Farr, Tree Officer representing Green Scene who we managed to lose between the announcement and the photograph on the podium. Sorry Rick!

Full details of the awards and the other successful projects/individuals click the link here.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Where there's a will ...

Some of you will remember the persistent vandalism that was visited on a particular street tree at the Hilly Fields end of Tyrwhitt Road in the spring of 2013 when a newly planted cherry was destroyed not once, but twice (see 

The replacement we planted has now been left to grow unmolested for a few years and this is the happy result: 

This year (2015/16), Brockley Society raised funds for nearly sixty trees in and around Brockley, most of which have now been planted. Send us your own photos!

Friday, 8 April 2016

Hither Green Trees project at the 2016 Hither Green Festival

Our fellow tree enthusiast and collaborator Justin Hannemann, whose own street tree regeneration project is now up and running - see: - will be hosting a stall at the 2016 Hither Green Festival on the opening day, Saturday May 14th. 

Come along to hear about the drive to replace lost street trees and to show your support for re-greening the streets of Hither Green - and beyond. 

Justin can be contacted via email at justin (dot) hannemann (at) google (dot) com or via his Twitter account @JustinHannemann . Details about the Hither Green festival can be found on their Facebook page or here on the Hither Green Community website:

The Breakfast Club (that's not a club)

BrocSoc Tree Committee held the fourth of its "Tree Breakfasts" last weekend, in the Artspace at 57 Loampit Hill by kind offer of the owner Mary McGeown. Wonderful pastries were offered again, donated by Pistachios CafĂ© in Hilly Fields. 

These "Tree Breakfasts" are meetings, by invitation only, of those who are able to offer time and energy to help with our aim to increase the numbers of trees, and most especially trees in public space, in Lewisham.

Yes, trees in public space in Lewisham, not just Brockley.

Fifteen people from inside and outside the ward, united by a wish to promote such planting, met once again for inspiration and mutual support, to discuss the efforts of individuals, and to ensure that they are unduplicated and part of a wider plan. 

To date the Tree Committee has concentrated on conservation, building a partnership with council Tree Officers, and private fund-raising. Now, the combined energy and ideas at these new, wider meetings have resulted in ambitious aims to engage with policy-makers in the borough. The hope is to influence council policy, as it affects planning, planting vision, publicity, and of course the sponsorship scheme itself. All this now feels like a realistic prospect. The committee now works with, among others, an arboriculturist, a transport planner, and an IT expert. Its work and its ambitions have now been taken well outside Brockley itself, to include the whole borough. 

Wherever you live, if you have time and energy to join us in what we are doing, or simply want to learn more, please get in touch.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Tree Enthusiast gathering - Spring 2016

Another successful gathering of local (and no so local) residents (old and new) who are interested in what we are doing and getting more street trees planted in the borough. 

The upstairs room at The Talbot was again looking delightful as we discussed our project, our aims and our ambitions, and fielded questions from people who ranged from the complete novice to very much the expert (a very welcome new resident with a wealth of knowledge about tree species). 

We were delighted to welcome Harry Carnegie to the meeting to talk about his project in Catford/Rushey Green and to hear more about the superb map he is making available showing of all public space trees across the entire borough courtesy of a dataset maintained by the Tree Officers at Green Scene. We really do encourage you to go and have a look at Harry's site and map (see the "Lewisham Borough Tree Map" tab above) and see what he has been doing with the data. It's really impressive. 

If you would like to get involved please get in touch using the "Contacts" tab above, or come along to the next Tree Enthusiast Event which will be posted on the blog in due course. 

... and the important stuff - Sunday morning coffee & cake!
Again, our thanks to the staff at The Talbot for their friendly support and to Kara for the delicious cakes she bakes for us.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Community organisation - Basic Tree Care

Earlier this week, Rick Farr, Tree Officer with Lewisham Council's Green Scene gave the first of a series of lessons to members of the local community involved in the care and maintenance of our burgeoning stock of newly planted street trees. 

Rick talking to our volunteers on Hilly Fields

Our trained volunteers are either members of the Brockley Society Tree Committee or interested enthusiasts who will be the first port of call for anyone concerned about Brockley's newly-planted trees.

This is the first in a series of new initiatives that have come out of our regular Breakfast Club meetings and we hope to be letting you know about others in the coming weeks and months. If you are interested in volunteering your services, please do get in touch using the "Contact us" tab above.  

Friday, 27 November 2015

"The Loveliest of Trees" - a fundraising concert for street trees

For some time, the Brockley Society’s Tree Committee has been aware of local residents who love trees and want to help, but who don’t have the time to commit.

So we struck upon the idea of staging a classical concert in the historic Stone House on Lewisham Way. This “exceptionally fine late 18th Century Villa”, as the architectural historian Summerson described it, would have been set in open countryside when first built. We are fortunate that the present owner Yvonne Horsfall-Turner generously offered the house for the concert. 

The original inspiration and most of the hard work was taken on by Tree Committee member, Xanthe Mosley. As a result, on Sunday 22nd November, sixty five of us were treated to an immensely successful and enjoyable evening. Besides diligent preparations, Xanthe had coopted various members of her talented family to perform. They were joined by other musician friends of the committee, and in fact, one of the Tree Committee themselves, playing classical oboe! So the spectacular architecture of the house proved the perfect setting for some very impressive chamber music performed for a delighted audience.

Because absolutely everyone involved generously gave their time & effort, over £3,000 was raised that evening exclusively for local street trees. All agreed it to be an event as inspired as the tree conference ‘Trees in the City’, hosted by the Brockley Society in April 2014.

So on behalf of that lucky audience, the entire community and all who love trees, Brockley Society wishes to express its gratitude to Yvonne, Xanthe and her team, and the musicians, for a brilliantly organised and hugely successful evening.

Brockley Society Tree Committee

November, 2015

Image courtesy of Anthony Russell at the Chandos Foundation
Isolde Roxby, Ruby Hughes - sopranos, and James Eastaway - oboe

Our musicians: 

Ruby Hughes - soprano
Isolde Roxby - soprano
James Eastaway - oboe
Andrew and Miranda Harper - violin/viola, piano/cello
Alice Jones - cello
Noah Mosely - piano
Scipio Mosely - classical guitar
Nina Spencer - viola
Hannah Wollacott - classical guitar 

We were very sad that our harpist, Jean Kelly was unable to join us on the night, being delayed overseas, but grateful that our musicians were able to make adjustments to the programme to cover her absence.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Green is Good! And we can prove it!!

In case it were needed, here's more evidence from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Journal website that street trees have quantifiable positive effects on our well-being and health. 

The research was done in Canada and correlates data about 530,000 trees with health data relating to 30,000 Toronto residents. Here's just one snippet: 
The results demonstrate that people who live in neighbourhoods with a higher density of trees enjoy greater well-being, even after taking into account their income, age and education.
See here for the link to the RIBA article.  

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

The ripple effect

It's been an interesting and exciting month or two. 

Word is getting out about the success of our work in getting more street trees planted in and around Brockley, and we are now in touch with the originators of two new significant projects in neighbouring parts of the borough, namely Catford and Hither Green.

This is really what we were hoping to achieve; a model that can provide the inspiration for other people out there to take up the challenge of getting their local communities galvanised and involved in the care of their local green space, and in particular, that extraordinary asset which is the local treescape. 

The Catford Street Trees initiative 

The man behind the Catford initiative is Harry Carnegie who has created the Catford Street Trees website (click HERE to open in a new window). 

Harry is aiming to raise the funds to plant 50 new street trees in Catford and has already been busy getting tree data supplied by Lewisham council out there in a format that the rest of us can use and understand. The results are really interesting and I encourage you to go over to his site and play around with the map (the map is now available from the tab list at the head of this page - clicking the Lewisham Borough Tree Map tab will take you straight to the map on Harry's website). What's really helpful to the those of us in other parts of the borough is that we can interact with the map to select our own wards, the species of tree, and the age and condition of the trees. The data is from 2012, so not completely current; a more current dataset is expected soon. 

Here is a snapshot of what Harry's Lewisham tree map looks like for Brockley ward: 

Each of the green dots is a tree - clicking on it will allow you find out more about the tree. 

Harry can be contacted via his website (HERE) or at this email address: 

info (at) catfordstreettrees (dot) org (dot) uk

The Hither Green initiative

This is a recent initiative being led by Justin Hannemann, a resident of Hither Green, who writes: 
Over the last couple of years I have noticed that the trees in our street here at College Park Close are not getting replaced, as they grow sick, die, or fall over.  For me, trees are an essential part of the landscape, breaking the hard edges of concrete, giving the birds a place to sing from and of course breathing oxygen into the air. They give children something to look up to and to explore.
Justin will be coordinating the effort in his immediate locality and hopes to be able to raise funds for new plantings this season (2015/16). The order window closes at the end of September as the trees need to be ordered and suitable planting locations finalised. If you are interested in helping Justin with this effort you can contact him here: 

justin (dot) hannemann (at) gmail (dot) com

In addition to the above, we are also working closely with the St John's Amenity Society and residents in Crofton Park. It's a really encouraging development that so many are now feeling able to make something happen in their own locality. 

We look forward to hearing from more of you in the coming months.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A fascinating talk in a fascinating hall

Last Sunday we were treated to an elaborated version of the talk that Rachel Mooney (Friends of Hilly Fields) gave at our Trees in the City conference in April 2014. We were in a new venue this time: Prendergast Hilly Fields College (earlier called Brockley County). 

[Click on any of the pictures for a larger version]

Rachel Mooney and one of the early OS maps of Hilly Fields
There was a lot to take in, not least that some of the early tree planting followed the boundaries of fields, and that the cricket pitch sits in a dip created by the removal of clay when a brick works was sited there in the nineteenth century (interestingly, there are other references to brick making in the area - Loampit Hill was the site of a large brickworks and there are photographic records of a brickworks on Blythe Hill Fields at around the same time). There's an interesting picture of the Loampit Hill brickworks here, and if you click on it to get a larger image, you can see what looks like Brockley County on the far horizon. 

We had a healthy audience of about 50 people, and there was a lively round of Q&As before and after the excellent tea and cakes once more prepared and served by Kara and helpers. 

After refreshments, our hard-working administrator Dom Eliot outlined the work of Brockley Society Tree Committee, the opportunities to get more trees planted in your street, and the new commemoration scheme which enables residents to plant a tree in memory of a loved one, or in celebration; a new birth or a graduation perhaps.

Dom elaborates the work of the BrocSoc Tree Committee
The other star of the day was the Mural Hall in the school itself. It is a really beautiful hall with important murals painted by students from the Royal College of Art, namely Evelyn Dunbar, Mildred Elsie Eldridge and Violet Martin - along with their tutor Charles Mahoney, started in the 1930s and officially opened in 1936. There is a really informative post on the brilliant Transpontine blog which you can access by clicking here

Sunday, 5 July 2015

The Green Fuse

The force that through the green fuse
Drives my green age ...
Dylan Thomas

This was a little project we had intended to post earlier in the summer, but of course, given life's distractions we are a posting it a little late - but better late than never! It's still a wonderful record of the greening of Brockley this spring.

This is the result of taking the same shots at the same location over a period of just under a month looking along Wickham Road from the junction of Harefield and Wickham (watch how the copper beech trees change from light to deep red as the leaves mature):

Looking towards Brockley: 
April 15th 
April 27th 
May 2nd 
May 10th 
Looking towards Lewisham:

April 15th 
April 27th 
May 2nd
May 10th 

Large street tree maintenance/pruning

Something we know that generates a lot of heat amongst local residents is the arrival of the chainsaw gangs that are contracted to maintain some of the larger trees along our streets. In the autumn of 2014 work was done on the Silver Maple trees in Harefield Road and Manor Avenue. Neither street had had extensive work done on these tree species for some time, and the effects looked alarming, which was partly what was concerning to so many. 

Harefield Road - November 2014 - pruned late summer
Already these trees were replacing foliage even though they were approaching their dormancy period
In this post we will try to cover the main points of contention. 

Why do this work? 

All trees need to be maintained. Without attention, defective branches or malformed boughs can introduce stresses that eventually cause boughs to shear or break in high winds and storms, causing damage to property and risk to life. Failing boughs can also allow water and pathogens into the trunk, eventually causing the death of the tree itself. Judicious pruning and maintenance can radically improve the long-term health of the tree and of course adds to the overall aesthetic value of the tree in the local environment. 

Mature deciduous trees take a great deal of water out of the ground during the growing season which they use to create new foliage, flowers and wood. In removing branches and foliage the tree takes less water with the result that more stays in the ground. After pruning the tree limits the growth of its root system, which of course is how the tree gets the water out of the ground in the first place! This is of course relevant to those residents who are concerned about the effect of trees undermining foundations or changing the water table and hence contributing to subsidence. 

There is also a conservation consideration for carrying out a regular maintenance programme on these trees: if the council can show that the tree is part of a regular pruning cycle it puts them in a much stronger position when defending against felling orders brought by insurance companies when trees are claimed to be causing subsidence. 

Thinning or "crown reduction"?

This is a complex question. Generally, thinning involves the removal of specific boughs and 'crown reduction' the removal of a good deal of wood and foliage around the periphery of the tree canopy. Each tree is generally considered on its own merits, and work is done usually according to age, condition, shape, etc. 

There is a very good account of these procedures on the website of the Urban Tree Foundation (in California) for those who are interested in reading more. 

When to do the work? 

Trees are never worked on when there are nesting birds in the canopy (this is illegal and can result in considerable fines for the contractor or owner). 

Most trees can be worked on at any point in the year, with a few exceptions, which are:
  • Maples, sycamore & birch - these trees are prone to 'bleeding' (i.e. loss of sap, which can be severe in certain tree species) so not pruned until in full leaf to prevent this
  • Walnut - extensive bleeding occurs unless pruned in full leaf, preferably in August
  • Cherries and plums - early summer pruning (April to July) reduces the risk of the trees developing 'silver leaf' (a fungal diseaseChondrostereum purpureum that enters the cuts made during pruning)
Summer pruning has a number of advantages:
  • Wounds start to heal immediately 
  • Pruning of deciduous trees to admit light or improve views can be more accurately judged   
  • Dead wood can be readily seen in deciduous trees 
  • Working conditions are generally safe on larger trees        

Response to pruning - broadleaf trees

The following table provides general guidance on the tolerance of varying broadleaf tree species to substantial pruning. Some respond with an immediate mass of new growth, others respond moderately well, whilst some (notably Beech and Birch) can be killed by injudicious pruning. 

Virtually all broadleaf trees will tolerate heavy pruning during their formative years.




Horse Chestnut




Harefield Road, July 2015 - the canopy on these Silver Maples has regrown