Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Your Vote Counts! Tree of the Year - courtesy of Deptford Folk

Many of our readers will be interested in the activity of the parks user group Deptford Folk. Among many other things, they are doing great work with us to replace lost street trees in Lewisham borough's Evelyn ward. 

Right now Deptford Folk are urgently asking for YOUR VOTE PLEASE!

In a competition run by the Woodland Trust, Deptford Folk have nominated John Evelyn's Mulberry Tree in Sayes Court Park, Lewisham for #TreeOfTheYear

The winner will receive £1000 towards the upkeep of the tree. They are urging Lewisham residents to vote using details in this link -

Deptford Folk had a spot on ITV London News yesterday 13th September, and they want to bring this award to Deptford and South East London. The tree has an interesting history and local legend has it that the tree was planted some 400 years ago by Peter The Great of Russia to atone for a drunken rampage through John Evelyn's garden. John Evelyn was a writer, gardener and diarist who wrote about trees, pollution and street design. His writings are as relevant to today as ever and he is a figure of cultural significance for Lewisham.

The whole campaign ties into the #LoveItLewisham and the Lewisham Borough of Culture bid, so please help Lewisham Council support the campaign for all of Lewisham. 

If you want to know more, Deptford Folk have pictures to share and are happy to provide quotes. More info about them can be found on their website - 


Email hello@deptfordfolk.org to be added to  mailing list. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter @DeptfordFolk and Instagram #deptfordfolk

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Gardeners' Question Time comes to Brockley

We were delighted to host BBC Radio 4‘s Gardeners’ Question Time last week. The broadcast is on Radio 4 this Friday 8th September at 3pm, and again two days later, and it will be on iPlayer for an indefinite period thereafter. Details are on the BBC website here.

The programme is believed to be the world’s longest continuously running radio programme - since 1947 in fact. The latest episode was recorded on 29th August in front of over 300 people in the Mural Hall, Prendergast Hilly Fields College, Brockley.

The panel consisted of Pippa Greenwood, Christine Walkden and James Wong. It was chaired by Peter Gibbs. For an hour we were offered extraordinary horticultural knowledge in the programme’s warm and humorous style.

Seventy-five questions were submitted at the door, and ten selected by the producers (no, the panel never gets them beforehand!). We still have no idea what will be included in the broadcast version of the evening. We will just say that the last questioner revealed a special and moving connection to the hall. His question related to the murals by Evelyn Dunbar above us all. We’re not going to offer any other spoilers.

The committee of Street Trees for Living has Joint Chairs, Xanthe Mosley and Dom Eliot. They were interviewed before the event, about their efforts to increase street tree planting in Lewisham. The broadcast programme will include brief clips from the interview.

                   drawing @XantheMosley                                                   


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Hither Green Lane improvement project

We are pleased to promote the efforts of friends in the borough who are attempting to get more street trees planted in an effort to tame traffic and improve the overall amenity value of their local streets. Stephanie writes from Hither Green: 

30 seconds well spent!

We would like to share the news about another Community-led initiative with you. A small group of Hither Green residents launched a Petition for a safer and greener Hither Green Lane.

The Petition is urging political decision-makers and Council to fund the planting of new trees on Hither Green Lane, in addition to significant streetscape improvements. Currently, there are only very few street trees, if any, on Hither Green Lane.

It is about creating a healthy and inviting environment that people feel safe in and want to spend time in. New trees will be key to this. Securing this change will hopefully be an enabler for supporting potential change in other areas such as improving air quality, increasing attractive shop-fronts and reducing antisocial behaviour.

There is no age restriction on who can sign the Petition. Please, make sure your husbands, wives, partners, daughters and sons sign too! Signatures are only accepted as valid from persons who live, work or study in the Borough of Lewisham.

Please, help spread the word, talk with neighbors and friends and share the Petition on your social media.

Many thanks.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Tree Sponsor of the month - September

Tree Sponsor of the Month took a break in August. Here is our September sponsor. Eleanor Ashfield tells us about her contribution to planting very many street trees in Brockley. 

1. Where is the sponsor tree located and why did you choose that particular site? 

I have sponsored about 20 street trees, starting in 2014, and they are located all over Brockley, from Cranfield Road to Shardeloes all the way over to the other side of Hilly Fields park. Local residents help me by chipping in a little towards each one, and helping with the watering (apart from the 3 which I water, on my street). 

2. What species of tree did you select and why?

I studied which trees actually contribute to pollution. There’s a great article by the Woodland Trust (click here). They found that Silver Birch, Alder, Pine and Laurels were the most effective at combatting air pollution. I’m a keen environmentalist, so most of my trees are Silver Birch or Laurel, with a few others for diversity on occasion. 

3. Why did you choose to sponsor a tree? Does it mark a special event or is it dedicated to someone?

My trees are dedicated to all those who fight air pollution, especially Greenpeace and Livingstreets, who promote walking, not taking the car, especially in cities. We can all act, every day to reduce our use of cars, to buy electric cars, and to walk more. Improving London’s currently very bad air quality will literally save thousands of lives.  

4. How long have you lived in the borough of Lewisham? Do you have any special memories you could share about the area?

I have lived in Brockley since 2007 and it’s the best place to live in London. My heart was bursting with pride when all the libraries stayed open and my local community library in Crofton Park has actually got better, and has a brilliantly stocked bookshop too. My favourite memory has to be lying on the grass under the trees on Hilly Fields eating ice creams during the Brockley Midsummer Fair.

5. Do you have a favourite tree in the area, apart from your sponsor tree of course? 

I love the cherry trees along Cranfield Road – in spring they shower everything in blossom and it’s beautiful. 

6. If there were no constraints what tree would you have chosen and why?

Probably even more trees to fight more air pollution. I wanted a Gingko Biloba tree (a great clean air maker) but the council didn’t have one. 

7. How did you learn about sponsoring a street tree through Street Trees for Living?

I saw a great little newspaper by the Brockley Society, all about how they had attended a conference talking about the role of trees in reducing air pollution. And there was an ad for sponsoring a street tree. I was all fired up and contacted them immediately! They are a lovely bunch and they really care about Brockley (and about London). I am overjoyed that this program has spread to other London areas since. It’s a great scheme. 

8. What would you say to someone who is considering sponsoring a street tree?

Do it! This is a brilliant program. You’ll feel so much more ownership for your local area and pride to be here. I even end up picking up random litter these days, and tidying up bits of Hilly Fields when rubbish is left out. Get involved and share the good feeling that you are part of the solution. 

Monday, 24 July 2017

What happened to that Blackcap? - A guest blog

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I heard a Blackcap singing in our garden in Forest Hill from the beginning of March. At the time I wondered whether he was passing through or whether he might actually stay to breed?

In fact he, or a male Blackcap just like him, has been singing in our garden every day since then until July 12th. But his non-musical activities remained a mystery to me until June 24th, the day of the General Election result, when for the first time I saw him with a female Blackcap easily identified by her brown cap which contrasted with his black one. They were frantically catching large numbers of small insects in a Mahonia bush flying off and then returning for more. This is the unmistakable behaviour of birds with a nest full of hungry fledglings. What happened to those fledglings I have no idea although I hope that they are keeping a low profile as they build up strength for their epic return journey to North Africa.

This has been a good year for Blackcaps across the borough. In addition to “my” own Blackcap in Forest Hill, I have heard them singing in the railway cuttings off Buckthorne Road in Crofton Park, as well as in parks such as a Brookmill Park and in street trees for example in Tresillian Road in Brockley.

The breeding success of other birds in our garden has been variable. Once more the Blackbirds have failed to raise their offspring, and although this year I have no direct proof of my suspicions, I fear that once again the squirrels have robbed the open vulnerable nest of our Blackbirds.

However, the more resourceful Robins have been successful and have reared two broods of youngsters this summer. And families of Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long-Tailed Tits regularly feed in the silver birch. These species are plentiful and the juveniles are doing well (although one was caught by a cat). 

Blue Tit - slighter & a little scruffier-looking 
than the Great Tit (below)
Great Tit - Images courtesy of www.gardenbirdwatching.com
Click on image for larger version
This year they have been joined by a handsome newcomer - the Nuthatch. This blue coloured bird is larger than a Blue Tit though smaller than a Thrush. It has a prominent beak like a dagger which it slams into the bark of Silver Birch - very much as do woodpeckers. However, in the Nuthatch's case it is hammering at seeds or nuts that it has hidden in cracks in the bark. Nuthatches live on the surface of tree trunks and line their nests with bark chippings.

Nuthatch - Image courtesy of www.gardenbirdwatching.com
Click on image for larger version
So despite the many dangers of our suburban garden in Forest Hill, many small birds have successfully fledged this summer and are finding food for themselves in the garden. And once again the Silver Birch has had the most to offer them. Insects and spiders are there at all times of the year, larvae and caterpillars are abundant in summer and seeds will be ready for them in autumn. Native trees are always best for nature which has evolved to take advantage of whatever food is on offer, but of all our native trees the Silver Birch must surely support the greatest variety of wildlife throughout the year. 

Stuart Checkley
Guest Blogger, from a garden somewhere in Forest Hill

Monday, 10 July 2017

Gardeners' Question Time comes to Brockley!

You will find here everything you need to know about this exciting event coming to Brockley later this summer. Check back often for the most current news.

Brockley Society’s Street Trees for Living
is delighted to announce it will be hosting 
Radio 4’s flagship gardening programme:

Gardeners’ Question Time

Tuesday 29th August 2017 
The Mural Hall, 
Prendergast Hilly Fields College,
(Hilly Fields campus)

Update: 1st August - This event is now sold out, but if you would like your name added to a waiting list for tickets please email info@streettreesforliving.org


Friday, 7 July 2017

Tree Sponsor of the month - July

In the second of our new series about our fabulous street tree sponsors, Ben and Sheila tell us about their decision to sponsor a tree in Comerford Road, SE4.

1. Where is the sponsor tree located and why did you choose that particular site? 
The tree is located on Comerford Road, Brockley. I chose this street as it is the street I live on, it's a lovely street but there are a few tarmac / paving spots hungry for foliage.

2. What species of tree did you select and why?
I just opted for the most convenient or suitable for the street - I left it in the hands of Street Trees for Living.  All trees are great so it was a safe gamble; I think it's a crab apple?

3. Why did you choose to sponsor a tree? Does it mark a special event or is it dedicated to someone?
I chose to sponsor the tree as a gift for my landlady. She is an amazing woman and I wanted to offer a token of gratitude, a tree is a great way to say thank you and a fantastic symbol of long-lasting friendship.

4. How long have you lived in the borough of Lewisham? Do you have any special memories you could share about the area?
I've lived here for nearly 4 years. I have untold happy memories here, it's really a great part of London! If I shared them with you I'd never make it to question 5.

5. Do you have a favourite tree in the area, apart from your sponsor tree of course? 
I love that massive tree on the Adelaide Avenue corner of Hilly Fields park, I also love the really tall trees in Brockley cemetery. And there's also that rare surviving Elm in Ladywell Fields. But really they're all great. 

6. If there were no constraints what tree would you have chosen and why?
A Giant Redwood, because they're HUUUUUGE!

7. How did you learn about sponsoring a street tree through Street Trees for Living?
I found out via Google, and got to know some of the people involved, I think it's an amazing way to spend your time and resources and I really appreciate your efforts. 

8. What would you say to someone who is considering sponsoring a street tree?
I'd say: "That's a good idea!"

Sheila’s story:

I moved into the flat in Comerford Road 32 years ago with my husband and baby after a period of homelessness. I fell in love with the road as soon as I saw it. One of the things I loved about my new home was the large silver birch in front of the house. Our flat is on the first floor and during some lengthy periods of ill health I have spent hours just looking at the tree from my settee. About 20 years ago, the tree simply fell down and I was so upset. I gathered some of the branches and a piece of the trunk and kept them in my garden for a while. I asked the council to replace the tree (not believing they would!). Lo and behold - they did and I again spend a lot of time simply watching the tree.

Ben knows how much I love trees and so, a couple of Christmases ago, he arranged for a tree to be placed in the road as my present. I was immensely touched then and still am. I got into decorating the tree last Xmas - the silver birch is too big to decorate, so I thought it would be fun to decorate the crab apple - it would also be a useful place to hang a Xmas card for my neighbours. I was surprised at how much people enjoyed the decorations; frankly, I was surprised that nothing was taken or defaced.That sowed the seed for the idea of using the tree to celebrate other events.

The Valentine's tree was very popular and I followed it up for Easter and Mother's Day. As dramatic world events unraveled, the tree has become a way for me to express messages of peace and solidarity. After Trump's election, I pinned a placard calling for an end to Islamaphobia and anti-Semitism - sadly, that one needs to be replaced quite often. I put up flowers and a message after the Manchester and London tragedies. Several people have told me that they have been comforted by the messages. Today I put one up to say thank you to the emergency services and a little one commemorating the death of Jo Cox.

I'm anxious that it doesn't become a mourning tree - have planned to put up some poems for children and adults. Of course, there will be a line of rainbow bunting for Gay Pride week. It's important for me to avoid party political messages - I have purposefully tried to reflect the culture and beliefs of my neighbours. My own indulgence was to put up prayer flags to celebrate Tibetan new year - and have left them there.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The greening of Vanguard Street SE8

As you will have read in our earlier post (here), twenty one new street trees were planted in Vanguard Street SE8 this spring, and as one of our first mass plantings we thought it was worth a little pomp and celebration, and an opportunity to publicise our new name (Street Trees for Living - STfL) too. 

On Friday 2nd June about thirty local residents gathered with us in the car park on Vanguard Street and shared some food and drink in the sunshine. 

BACK L to R - Sue Morgan: STfl committee member - Rick Farr: Lewisham Council Tree Officer
Sophie McGeevor: Brockley ward councillor - Maya Onyett: Lewisham Council Local Assembly Coordinator - Vicky Foxcroft: Labour Parliamentary Candidate for Lewisham Deptford FRONT L to R - Clare Cowen: Chair, Brockley Society - Xanthe Mosley: Joint Chair, STfL - Dom Eliot: Joint Chair, STfL

Monday, 5 June 2017

Tree sponsor of the month - June

In this, the first of a series of regular blog posts about our amazing tree sponsors, we pose eight questions to Anthony Gaylard about his decision to sponsor a tree in his street:

1. Where is the sponsor tree located and why did you choose that particular site?

Ermine Road. The street has very few street trees and looks bare especially at the Vicars Hill end. So I wanted to start to adjust the green space balance. 

2. What species of tree did you select and why?

June Berry, also known as Snowy Mespilus (Amelanchier lamarckii). There are already two others on Ermine Road and I wanted to keep the look uniform for maximum effect. They are also very beautiful.

3. Why did you choose to sponsor a tree? Does it mark a special event or is it dedicated to someone?

We only recently moved into the area and wanted to mark the occasion for my daughter as well as giving her something to care for.

4. How long have you lived in the borough of Lewisham? Do you have any special memories you could share about the area?

Six months.

5. Do you have a favourite tree in the area, apart from your sponsor tree of course? 

We  recently planted two bonsai Olive trees (Olea europaea) at the front of our property to further enhance the green space on Ermine Road.

6. If there were no constraints what tree would you have chosen and why?

If I could I would plant the whole of Lewisham. Apart from the well-known positive effect trees have in our community, a well-planted street will have the effect of slowing traffic without the need for other traffic calming measures.

7. How did you learn about sponsoring a street tree through Street Trees for Living?

The label on the existing street trees.

8. What would you say to someone who is considering sponsoring a street tree?

I have found it very rewarding and I would highly encourage anyone to do so. It seems to have a lot of positive effects for the physical environment as well as bringing the community together as people seem to care more when green space is increased in an urban environment.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Forest Man of India - Jadav Payeng

A beautiful and inspiring film about Majuli island in north east India, the largest river island in the world, which sits in the flow of the mighty Brahmaputra river. Jadev started planting trees in the 1970s, single-handed, and his forest is now considerably larger than Central Park NY. 

There are serious concerns for the long term viability of the island due to ever-increasing soil erosion, but Jadev's efforts are a viable solution if he can be supported and funded. The forest is now home to a herd of migratory forest elephants, deer, rhino and tigers. 

This award-winning film, made in 2012 is worth 16 minutes of anyone's time:

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

The Silver Birch & the Blackcap - A guest blog

As I started to write this blog at the end of March, I looked out of the window and saw in our Silver Birch a small brown bird. It was a Chiffchaff, and in all probability it had just arrived  from North Africa where it had spent the winter. For twenty minutes it fed on a mixture of catkins and small insects which it caught on the wing, and then - quite suddenly - it was off. At the beginning of April, another visitor arrived, in all probability from North Africa too. This one was a Blackcap - a small greyish bird with a black cap, its striking song cascading from several of the trees in and around our garden. He is still singing here today, and if he can attract a mate, he may even stay to nest. 

Male Blackcap - Image courtesy of www.gardenbirdwatching.com
Click on image for larger version
And a few days after the Blackcap a third visitor arrived - a Willow Warbler. This one is likely to have come from sub-Saharan Africa. I never saw him but over several days he sang from the trees in and around our garden on the top of a hill and then, he too had gone. 

Every spring I am amazed by the ability of such tiny birds, all smaller than a Sparrow, to complete such lengthy journeys and also I am gratified to see our Silver Birch and other trees acting as a refuelling station for them.

Silver Birch near London Assembly Building
at Tower Bridge - winter - click for larger version
In winter similar migrations take place - from Scandinavia. Most winters a small flock of Redwing (a thrush with red underwings and which spends the summer in Finland or Scandinavia) flies around Forest Hill in search of berries such as the Hawthorn and Cotoneaster on which they gorge in our garden. And small finch-like birds from Scandinavia such as Brambling, Redpoll and Siskin have all put in a short appearances on the same Silver Birch that is so loved by our African summer visitors. The attraction of these trees is the food they offer - seeds, insects, and other small invertebrates. 

Together our trees - whether in park, garden or street - contribute to a larger ecosystem that benefits these and many other birds, of which the most remarkable for me are the long distance flyers such as the beautiful and not uncommon Blackcap.

A recording of the Blackcap's song can be found on the RSPB website here: 

It can be heard in my garden today - and maybe in yours too?

Stuart Checkley
Guest Blogger, from a garden somewhere in Forest Hill

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

New growth in Vanguard Street

As some of you know, the Tree Committee of Brockley Society is now committed to getting more street trees planted much further afield than the immediate conservation area. To this end we are delighted to announce the planting this spring of 21 new trees in Vanguard Street (St Johns/Deptford) made possible by a collaboration of private and public funding, namely, the proceeds from our hugely successful (and hugely enjoyable) Stone House Concert in November 2015 (see here), and Brockley Assembly grants and Greater London Assembly monies (ie. those made available via the powers of the London Assembly and Mayor of London). 

The intention with this ambitious project is to create a green corridor from Broadway Fields to Tanners Hill and Addey and Stanhope School parallel to the heavily congested and extremely polluted A2. 

We are delighted that the all important task of watering our new trees has been taken on by Peabody Estates who are already out and about following some of the unseasonably warm days we have had in the last week or so. 

These trees are a flowering cherry called prunus avium 'Plena', a variety of our native Wild Cherry which will produce profuse hanging clusters of double white flowers when in full bloom. They will be a spectacular and welcome sight in this generally rather stark urban street scene.