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