Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Santa's Little Hampers

Anthony braves the cold
Well, not so little - quite a substantial hamper actually! 

This was a wonderful collaboration between our incomparable helpmate Tiffany Childs (who collated our luxury christmas hamper containing £100 worth of seasonal goodies) and your Brockley Society Tree Wardens and Brockley Society helpers. 

The weather held and Saturday 8th December dawned frosty and bright. Tickets fairly flew from our hands and by the end of the day we had raised a magnificent £247 which will be used for a street tree related project in the coming year. 

Staffed from 10 am to 2 pm by a succession of Brockley Society volunteers and your unflagging Tree Wardens we were heartened to talk to many of you about your appreciation of our local trees and your concerns about their maintenance and replacement. There is clearly a lot of interest and good will out there. 

Thank you all for your support and encouragement, and congratulations to Ian whose winning ticket was selected at the end of the day. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

Pinnacle PSG

On 6th November this year we posted the story of a Brockley resident who returned home from work to find the apple tree that had adorned her front garden felled to the ground (see here). 

The matter was taken up by Darren Johnson, our Green Party Brockley ward councillor who asked the company contracted by Lewisham Council (Pinnacle PSG who manage 1838 properties in Brockley under a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) agreement) for an explanation.

Pinnacle have apologised for the failure to notify the residents of the house concerned of the tree felling work that was requested and say they have put measures in place to prevent this happening again in future. 

They point out that since the beginning of 2011 they have submitted only six applications for tree related work in the conservation area of which three were requests for felling. 

Finally, Pinnacle acknowledge how important trees are to local residents and communities and assure us that they will replace the lost trees with other 'trees or shrubbery' that will not damage drains or foundations. Negotiations will be initiated with affected residents in due course. 

We look forward to being able to report the replacement of these losses in the New Year. 

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Chainsaw Massacre - The Prequel

In May 2007 The London Assembly Environment Committee published their report 'Chainsaw Massacre - A Review of London's Street Trees'. Our own Green Party Councillor for Brockley Ward Darren Johnson was Chair of this committee. 

To see the report in PDF format go here

At the point of publication this was clearly a comprehensive assessment of the state of London's street trees. Taken as a whole, there had been a net gain of 8,000 trees planted across the Capital in the five years before publication (this was data collected by the London Tree Officers Association - LTOA). 

However, the picture is very patchy. 

In the same period, there had been a net loss of street trees in a third of London boroughs. Harrow, for example, lost 5,000 street trees and only replanted about 2,000, a more than 16% loss. Croydon lost 2,600 and was only able to replant 600 of the trees removed (a net loss of 6%).

The good news comes from the remaining two thirds of London boroughs who replanted more trees than they removed. Redbridge planted 4,850 trees and removed about 2,880. Barnet managed to plant over 3,700 trees having removed just over 2,400. Richmond planted 2,500 trees and removed 1,400. lambeth planted over 1,300 trees and removed just under 500 and Southwark planted over 1,750 and removed about 250. Lewisham reported 808 removals and 839 planted in the same period (a net gain of 0.26%). 

Some of the most disturbing reading is about the activity of the insurance companies whose instructions to fell trees are responsible for a considerable amount of tree destruction across the Capital. In Section 3 read this: 
3.5 The Mayor's London Tree and Woodland Framework document states that the perceived threat of subsidence [due to root incursion] is much greater than the actual threat and it is estimated that less than 1% of the total tree population has actually caused damage to properties. This has led to the London Tree and Woodland Framework Manager (LTWF Manager) naturally concluding that insurance industry subsidence statistics should be challenged.  
To support a great deal of constructive work being done by the LTOA to mitigate the effects of tree damage to property, one of the key recommendations coming out of the report states that: 

Recommendation 2
The insurance industry needs to provide evidence of better quality investigations that comply with nationally recognised guidance ensuring that accurate reliable tests are used in their investigation of tree root related subsidence claims
And in respect of the trees we are losing: 

Recommendation 3
London Boroughs should do everything within their power to prevent the loss of street trees, but where the removal of a tree is unavoidable, replacement trees should be planted in suitable and agreed locations within the same vicinity
There is much to recommend a thorough reading of this report. It is certainly a significant resource for us as we work to protect and enhance our local street tree stock. 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Ash clouds ... and silver linings ...

Whilst the recent news of this potentially devastating fungal disease hits the news, this Radio 4 program by the Saving Species team discusses ash dieback and other tree diseases and our complicated relationship with tree planting in general. Whilst mostly relevant to forestry planting, it is also relevant to urban tree planting:

As Tree Wardens we are keen to raise awareness of the value of our trees in public spaces, and are very conscious that we are planting for the future. What we plant, and where is something we are actively thinking about and discussing with Green Scene, the part of Lewisham Council charged with the management of trees and public green space.

Developments will be posted here. 

Anthony, Nicola, Eamonn & James
Tree Wardens
The Brockley Society 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Hatchet jobs

"I cannot tell a lie,
I did it with my little hatchet"

Apple tree or cherry, the popular fable about the young George Washington's antics with his new hatchet is still a story with resonance ...

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

And a happy birthday to you too!

Whilst the main focus of this blog is the care and preservation of our street trees, and more generally trees in public spaces, we are also happy to publicise the difficulties and dilemmas people are having that are related to trees on private land.

This story came our way last week. It is hard to understand how our planning system can result in such a brutalising process. The thorny issue of damage to property by tree roots is immensely complex and the Brockley Society Tree Wardens are actively seeking a meeting with Lewisham Planning Department to discuss the problem. In the meantime, if you have stories to share that have left you wondering about our priorities when it comes to our local tree stock, please get in touch using the email address on the Contacts tab above. 

Lucy writes: 

It was a sad day indeed when I returned home from work one evening in early October to find the beautiful, large apple tree in our front garden felled to the ground. I was shocked, angry and upset that this had happened and went straight onto the Lewisham Council website to search for a number to call to alert them. In doing so, I noticed a link to a list of planning applications and to my great surprise, top of the list was my address (my actual flat number) listed with the request to fell the apple tree – approved!

[Here is the tree - to the right of the front door]

After speaking with the council it transpired that our neighbour had in fact applied for the tree to be felled and this had been approved by the Lewisham Council Planning Department and the Amenity Society Panel without the need to notify us - the owners of the property where the tree is located!

Sadly, the deed is done and no amount of complaining can restore the tree or the character it provided to the property. However, having seen the very lengthy list of approved tree felling in The Brockley Society newsletter this month, I am disappointed that the planning authority and the local amenity society seem to be approving these applications rather than trying to protect the trees in our conservation area and find alternative solutions where trees are deemed to be causing a problem.

The reason none of these applications are receiving appeals is because nobody knows about them, unless you happen to browse the Lewisham Planning Department application website on a regular basis on the off chance an application is submitted for your front garden or neighbouring property – not something I’m sure many people do in their spare time!

Sadly, many of the trees felled may have been saved if the locals were aware of the proposals and had a chance to appeal. It seems to me the planning process needs to be reviewed to avoid these scenarios in our lovely neighbourhood - so keep up the good work Tree Wardens of Brockley and good luck liaising with the council and other bodies to reduce these tree losses in the future.

Since this story was penned, we have learned that this apple tree was planted by Lucy's upstairs neighbour's mother to mark his birth. It was unceremoniously felled this October a day after his 27th birthday ...

[And here's the stump after the contractor's visit]

Sunday, 4 November 2012

1,000+ pageviews and counting ...

We weren't at all sure how much traffic we would attract to the blog when we posted our first entry on 21st September. So we are delighted and encouraged that this weekend we have passed the 1,000 pageviews watermark. 

Please feel free to respond to postings on the blog. We would love to hear from you!

Our thanks to all those who are broadcasting our presence and to all the messages of support we have been receiving. 

Nicola, Anthony, Eamonn & James
Tree Wardens
The Brockley Society

Ash clouds ...

Well, the news of the ash disease chalara fraxinea hit the headlines again on Friday with the government calling a meeting of the COBRA committee, usually reserved for discussing national disasters and terrorism. Perhaps at last this issue is getting the attention it deserves (see here). 

Whatever you make of the recriminations of the arboriculturalists who apparently warned the government as far back as 2009, the disease is in the wild and quite likely to cause massive damage to a very common and beautiful tree species. Whether we are going to loose trees on the scale of the Dutch Elm Disease tragedy of the late 60's, only time will tell, but George Monbiot on Newsnight on Friday night thinks we will.

Perhaps you aren't aware of the ash trees in our vicinity? 

There are some lovely mature specimens in Hilly Fields. The one on the left here is at the entrance to the park at the junction of Tressillian Road and Hilly Fields Crescent.

The two below are very close to the tennis courts and playground: 

Mature ash trees in Hilly Fields - 3rd November 2012
If you are looking for reliable information about the disease, FERA (Food and Environment Research Agency) have posted a useful YouTube video on the life-cycle of the pathogen. 

Notifications are apparently the responsibility of the Forestry Commission, who have posted the following information on their website: 

Mature ash - corner of Hilly Fields Crescent and Tressillian Road - 3rd November 2012

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Life Without Trees II

I spoke too soon. 

This unwelcome news on the BBC News today about a new threat to our native ash, which is the fourth most common broadleaf species in our native woodland:

and here: [29.10.12]

The thought that this might be the 'Dutch Elm Disease' of our era is very very worrying. It comes on the heels of another major threat to one of our common natives, the plane tree. Another fungal disease is presently ravaging the thousands of plane trees that line the Canal Du Midi in France. Should it arrive here, a very common street tree will be in grave danger:

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Life without trees ...

Do you have a favourite tree that you walk past regularly and admire? Do you find yourself eagerly waiting for it to come into leaf, to show it's pale spring colours and then deepen into its mature summer regalia? Do you think about how much human life the tree has been part of, and for how many years? 

Have you ever stopped to imagine what it would be like to live without trees? Perhaps the post Judgement Day apocalyptic world has been often-enough depicted now, but I'm talking about an otherwise ordinary world in which trees have been subtracted? It's hard to imagine isn't it? 

I discovered from one of our group that Johannesburg is home to what is called a 'city forest', estimated to comprise between 6 and 10 million trees. I went looking to find out more, and discovered a lovely example of a more tropical Southern Hemisphere street scene:

Many thanks to photographer Christine Phillips at for permission to use this image

We have our own version of this Johannesburg street scene, in Manor Avenue at the western side of the conservation area:

Manor Avenue SE4 - 20th October 2012

OK - not so tropical, but wonderful nonetheless. 

I went out to take this picture last weekend and came across a resident sweeping her front garden. She saw me take the photo and called out "It's a rainbow you know, as you come down from that end!". Her enjoyment of the autumn colours along the street was apparent. 

Trees really are part of our daily lives here in Brockley. And we need to look after them so that they can go on enriching the lives of all who live, work and pass through here.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Tree Council Honours The Brockley Society

The Brockley Society's tree wardens are thrilled that the Tree Council have offered us a fruit hedge amounting to anything up to 100 metres long and worth £500. They said it is in recognition of the efforts our society is making to improve our knowledge and green environment. Add this to the good-will we have enjoyed from Lewisham Council's Green Scene and it seems to endorse our efforts to build relationships with different bodies.

We have yet to finalise the location for the hedge but something of this potential size will probably need to go in Hilly Fields where it could be tended by the residents who have done so much to care for newly planted trees there. Negotiations are under way!

We are particularly grateful to the Tree Council because a fruit hedge will add to the spirit of community giving for which Brockley is fast getting a reputation. The many potential fruit could include: apples, pears, cherries, gooseberries, elder & plums and would be a reminder of the tradition of this area of London for fruit growing.

The intention is to get it planted in March and combine it with a visit by members of the Tree Council, who have kindly offered to undertake a walk-about Brockley to discuss the trees in general and care of the fruit hedge in particular. For this important gathering we are hoping to get someone from Lewisham planning office and from Green Scene to join us. We will obviously be posting more details as they are finalised with the aim of getting a good resident turn-out.

You can find out more about the Tree Council here:

And please do let us know if you would like to help care for the fruit hedge (use the Contacts link above). 

Tree Warden

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Modern alchemy

Did you know that you could convert that rusting heap in the front drive or garage into a living, breathing, growing tree? 

Trees for Cities (here) is running a completely free scheme that will relieve you of your scrap-value car and transform it into trees with virtually no hassle for you. 

Have a look:

LA Largesse

"Four hundred trees had to be cut down to make way for Endeavour's wingspan. The city has promised to plant 1,000 replacements" BBC News 
Well, at least we don't have to worry about retired space shuttles being rolled down our leafy streets!

This item on today's BBC News made me smile:

Friday, 5 October 2012

Chainsaw massacre

A couple of weeks back the sound of chainsaws could be heard for a number of hours down our end of Breakspears Road. Turns out five lime trees were being felled in a local front garden - FIVE. I went to talk to the tree surgeons and was told that they were healthy trees being removed for what he thought were 'insurance reasons'. 

It got me thinking about the number of trees we are losing in private gardens across the local area (on top of the losses we are suffering among our street tree stock), so I decided to investigate. 

All tree work done in the conservation area must be authorised via the Planning Department, so I went looking for Lewisham Council's planning application website at:

Using the available filters on the site I looked for all applications registered from 1/1/12 to 30/09/12 in Brockley Ward with an application type 'Trees in conservation areas'. There were 64 matches. 56 had been decided as of 30/09/12. None had been appealed. 

Of these original 64, I did a quick search via my browser for the word "FELL" ie. to find applications where permission to fell had been made. There were 36 applications that included tree felling work. I then looked at the text of these 36 applications to see what details were available, and discovered that a total of 71 trees were involved. 

Without a lot of extra work, I couldn't go through the detailed applications, even though they are available on the website. From a cursory scan it would appear that the vast majority of these applications were granted. Some of the trees are 'nuisance value' trees like lleylandii but many are not. And whatever they are, they are often habitat and food sources for nesting birds and other species. 

The tally for these 71 trees was: 

Rowan - 1 
Pear - 1 
'Conifer' - 5
Elder - 5  
Sycamore - 19   
Cherry - 1 
Acacia - 2 
'Two trees' - 2 
Lleylandii - 12 
Apple - 1 
Norway Maple - 2
Italian Alder - 1   
Lime - 10 
Acer spp. - 2 
London Plane - 1 
Cypress - 1  
Eucalyptus - 1  
Mimosa - 1  
Robinia - 1  
'Pine' - 1  
Holly - 1   

This is a surprising number of trees to lose, with not all species being 'nuisance value' species. Of course, much of this work is necessary, but how aware are you of the steady loss of trees across the conservation area? 

Brockley Society

Friday, 21 September 2012

Apps We Love

Lewisham Council have released a nifty app for smart phone users that can help in the battle to keep on top of the work that needs doing to protect the local environment. So on your journeys around the area, use it to report issues relating to the local street trees.

Brockley Central reported on this some while back, so it is with thanks to BC that we can refer you here for more details:

PS. Apps are available across platforms: iPhone, Android, Windows and Blackberry

Now you see it ...

This is the post that prompted us to launch the Brockley Street Trees blog. A beautiful flowering cherry that had graced our street for many decades is removed in an hour and the stump tarmac'd over.

More shocking were the (tiny minority) who commented that the street looked 'tidier' without it ... We were convinced that the majority would mourn the loss of such a spectacular tree - even if the blossom was loud and blousy!