Sunday, 21 June 2015

You won a street tree!

Our congratulations to Kate who was the outright winner of our 2015 BrocSoc Tree Quiz which we were running on our stall at the Midsummer Fayre yesterday. She wins a new tree in her street courtesy of Brockley Society, to be planted this coming season.  

We were kept busy all afternoon talking about our work to raise awareness of our street tree planting initiative, the next Tree Enthusiast event on Sunday 5th July (see tab above), and, of course, the quiz. We had an interesting groundswell of interest about new street tree planting in the streets around Overcliff, Sandrock, and Shell Roads, and intend to put these neighbours in touch with each other. 

We thought we'd give the answers to our quiz here to satisfy the curiosity of those who were stumped by some of the more difficult questions: 

The 2015 BrocSoc Tree Quiz

1. Have a look at the glass plate on the table. Can you name these 4 common tree species just by looking at their leaves? They are all found on Hilly Fields

Top left Ash/Top right Lime
Bottom left Horse Chestnut/Bottom right Oak

2. A row of trees runs up the right hand side of the path from Hilly Fields Crescent to the fork just before the cafe.  How many in the row?  (Twelve / Ten / Eight)

            a. What species are they? London Plane

            b. One of them is different. What species is it? ­­­­­Oak 

3. What variety of tree has its finest surviving specimen in Ladywell? ­Elm

4. Which of these three trees is not deciduous? a) English Oak b) American Oak 
c) Holm Oak

5. If you wanted to buy a tall upright tree what Latin word would you look for in the name? a) baccata b) fastigiata c) pendula 

6. What species of tree in Hilly Fields blew down in the St Jude’s day storm of 27th October 2013 and is now painted red and yellow? Black Poplar

7. Which species of tree has the greatest biodiversity (ie. supports the largest number of insects, mosses, ferns, lichens, fungi etc) Oak

8. According to an old English rhyme, the wood of which tree makes the best firewood? ­­­Ash

Here's the rhyme: 

Beech-wood fires burn bright and clear 
If the logs are kept a year; 
Store your beech for Christmastide 
With new-cut holly laid beside; 
Chestnut's only good, they say, 
If for years 'tis stored away; 
Birch and fir-wood burn too fast 
Blaze too bright and do not last; 
Flames from larch will shoot up high, 
Dangerously the sparks will fly; 
But ash-wood green and ash-wood brown 
Are fit for a Queen with a golden crown. 

Oaken logs, if dry and old, 
Keep away the winter's cold; 
Poplar gives a bitter smoke, 
Fills your eyes and makes you choke; 
Elm-wood burns like churchyard mould, 
E'en the very flames are cold; 
It is by the Irish said; 
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread, 
Apple-wood will scent the room, 
Pear-wood smells like flowers in bloom; 
But ash-wood wet and ash-wood dry 
A King may warm his slippers by. 


9. In Norse mythology, from which tree was the first woman made? ­­­­­Rowan

10. The dashboard of the Jaguar car is traditionally made from the wood of which nut-bearing tree? ­(Burr) Walnut

Tie breaker: How many trees are there on Hilly Fields? +/- 750

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Lancaster Environment Centre does it again!

Those of you who came to our "Trees in the City" conference last spring will remember the excellent presentation given by Professor Barbara Maher of Lancaster University's Environment Centre (we posted an item on the original research here). In it she presented the astonishingly effective benefits of planting a screen of silver birch saplings alongside busy roads to capture particulate pollution (mostly generated by diesel powered cars). 

Poor air quality has been figuring in the news almost weekly in the first few months of this year. As recently as 25th March 2015 reports have been published warning of the very serious consequences of high levels of airborne pollution, namely premature death and the increased risk of stroke (see BBC Health website article here). 

Colleagues of Barbara Maher in the Lancaster Environment Centre have now published a very accessible summary of their considerable research into the complex effects of urban trees on the clearing of air pollution in our cities.

Recommendations are made about the tree species found to have the greatest capacity to improve air quality, without themselves generating polluting VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), namely: 

Common Alder
Field Maple
Norway Maple
Scots Pine
Silver Birch

Whilst we're unlikely to plant Larch or Scots Pine on the streets of Brockley, Silver Birch are already being planted and there's no reason not to consider Alder and Ash too. 

The complete document is available from the LEC's website here

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The sap is rising - again!

On Sunday 22nd March we held the second of our planned quarterly gatherings at which we present updates about the work of the Tree Committee and the work we are doing to get more street trees planted. 

We were again hosted by Lesley and her team at The Talbot pub in Tyrwhitt Road, SE4 and we had about thirty people join us. Some were very local and others had travelled in from Lewisham, Lee, and Crofton Park. We were very pleased to have Cllr John Coughlin (the Green Party) join us, and John Thompson, Head of Green Scene at Lewisham Council. Both were available for questions at the end of the informal presentations. 

Our administrator Dom Eliot outlined the work the committee has done in getting this last round of 36 trees planted, and the on-going support needed to continue the momentum. Eamonn gave a brief presentation highlighting the uses we are making of this blog, which is now the central point of reference for all matters related to the care of our public space trees in Brockley and the immediate vicinity. We have now clocked up over 18,000 page visits since we started the blog in 2012 and we are read very widely, in fact, globally, according to the stats available to us!

Also announced on Sunday is a scheme to encourage local residents to consider sponsoring a tree in commemoration - to celebrate a a birth, or a marriage, or to mark the death of a loved one for example. The Tree Committee is still formulating this initiative, and we will be posting details on the blog in the next weeks.

Offers of help were made to get all of our street trees labelled and photographed, and a possible Twitter account manager also came forward! We also had a number of concrete offers of sponsorship there and then, for which we are most grateful. 

All in all, these gatherings are proving a valuable vehicle for galvanising support and getting the message out about our work. We are now in touch with nearly 200 people who have expressed an interest in protecting and increasing our tree stock, and we are talking to a number of representatives of other local community groups interested in our work. 

Please drop us a line or get in touch via the "Getting involved" or "Contacts" tabs above. If you'd just like to be on our mailing list, go to "Mailing List sign-up" tab. 

We'd love to hear from you!

Delicious fare, again provided by Kara

all of us on The Tree Committee
The Brockley Society

Friday, 13 March 2015

Lumbering giants - our large species trees

Whilst we are delighted to see so many new trees going into the ground, it's worth saying something about the stealthy and steady losses we are suffering of some of our mature trees. 

Last year another of the stately Silver Maples that lines Harefield Road was lost (via an application to fell following a subsidence claim), and we had a rather fraught time dealing with the (understandable) public reaction to the loss of a very large Eucalyptus in a back garden on Tyrwhitt Road (which also went through planning consent). 
Before (May 2014) and after (Feb 2015)
These are the losses that we can see, and easily know about, but they are a small proportion of the private land trees being lost, legitimately (after applications to fell via the planning process) and illegally (by unscrupulous landlords and owners) - see our 2012 post "Chainsaw Massacre" here

These large trees were the subject of a report in 2012 by Ciria, a not-for-profit research and information association encompassing the construction and built environment industries entitled "The Benefits of Large Species Trees in Urban Landscapes: a costing, design and management guide". It is an impressive piece of work, co-authored by Tom Armour from Arup who presented at our Trees in the City conference in Spring 2014. 

There is too much relevant research to detail here, but this is from the Executive Summary:
The Benefits of large species trees
Due to their size and stature, large species trees are particularly effective in urban areas in regulating the microclimate, attenuating and filtering water, attenuating noise and improving air quality and sequestering carbon. Mature trees also provide a significant habitat resource, enriching biodiversity in urban areas and promoting access to nature. The wide range of social and environmental benefits that large species trees bring to the urban environment can be summarised as follows:
  • improved physical health 
  • improved mental health and well-being 
  • improved hospital recovery rates 
  • improved workplace productivity 
  • improved childhood development and well-being 
  • enhanced social cohesion 
  • reduced flood damage 
  • cleaner water
Our larger species trees are usually confined to particular streets (the London Plane trees around St. Margaret's Road and the perimeter of Hilly Fields on Hilly Fields Crescent, and Lewisham Way end of Breakspears Road and along the entirety of Wickham Road for example). 

Hilly Fields Crescent - boundary of Hilly Fields - London Plane trees
planted by the Victorian founders of the park

London Plane trees along Cranfield Road boundary of St Peter's Church

And of course, there are the mature Silver Maples on Harefield Road and in the middle of Manor Avenue that provide such spectacular autumn colour: 
Silver Maple - Manor Avenue

There are also a number of mature trees in private gardens that add hugely to the green landscape in and around the conservation area. There are notable Beech trees in Wickham, Breakspears and Tressilian Roads, and some stunning mature Horse Chestnut trees lining the Brockley end of Wickham Road shielding the social housing blocks from the worst of the noise and pollution from the often heavy traffic along this road.

Top left: Copper Beech tree corner Harefield Road & Wickham Road;
Top right: Beech tree on Wickham Road;
Lower: two unusually large mature flowering cherry trees in Geoffrey Road - all SE4
There is a rather nice post-script to this post: when the mature Silver Maple was removed in Harefield Road last summer, we learned that the insurance company that had pursued the case was offering to plant a replacement, so we are now happy to see that a rather lovely Hornbeam has been planted close by. Now that's cause for celebration! 

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Heralds of spring

It's a clear sign that spring is here when the Cherry Plum trees around the conservation area start to come into flower. 

Wickham Road, SE4
The scientific name for this tree is Prunus cerasifera and it is part of the Rosaceae family (most of the stone fruits fall in the Prunus genus). There is an impressive avenue of the purple leaved variety of this tree in Drakefell Road (on the way to Telegraph Hill).

Cranfield Road, SE4
On this day there was something extra special about these trees; they were full of honey bees! A rather impressive mature specimen in a front garden on Breakspears Road was so full of bees that you could hear them! Have a listen! 


Monday, 9 March 2015

Mission accomplished!

A special day for the Brockley Society Tree Committee and our latest group of sponsors and donors. This Silver Birch was planted on Crescent Way, Brockley today and is the last of 36 street trees to be planted by The Brockley Society in this planting season. 

The picture shows Dionyssis Dimitrakopoulos, the volunteer warden of the tree who will water and keep an eye on it as part of the planting scheme we are running in association with Lewisham Council/Green Scene.

We are looking forward to gathering more interest from local residents and businesses over the course of this year and planning for the 2015/16 planting season has already begun. 

The Tree Committee
The Brockley Society

Monday, 2 March 2015

2015 spring - record new street tree plantings

With the dwindling funds available for Lewisham Council to replace and plant new street trees, local residents have been coming on board in ever greater numbers to purchase/part-fund new trees for their streets. 

This year, along with a host of individuals, households and neighbourly collectives, we have also been greatly helped by an extremely generous individual donor who has come forward. We were also successful in making an application to the Brockley Ward Assembly for funds. 

All told, we are just completing the planting of THIRTY SIX new street trees in and around the conservation area. This is an amazing achievement, and we are hopeful that we can continue this level of planting in the coming year. What is also evident is that the model is spreading out to other parts of the borough, including St Johns, Ladywell and Crofton Park. 

In the current planting season, 17 out of the 36 plantings which we have facilitated are actually outside the conservation area, specifically in the following streets - Arabin Road, Brockley Cross, Ermine Road, Malpas Road, Millmark Grove, Shardeloes Road, and Strickland Street. In the previous two planting seasons, the figure is 11 trees outside the conservation area, out of 16 total planted. So as you can see, we are doing our best to cast our net as widely as possible (details of where these new trees have been planted will be uploaded to the map on the "New Plantings" tab on our blog in due course). 

One of three Juneberry trees (Snowy Mespilus) planted in 
Breakspears Road on February 6th, with members of the Glendale 
planting team that work with Lewisham Council, and Nicola 
Ferguson of Brockley Society Tree Committee
Realistically, with the ongoing losses of existing street tree stock (due to old age and disease), this is the only way we will maintain the leafy character of our streets and ensure that the local street environment is maintained and, hopefully, enhanced. 

With thanks to Lewisham Council's Green Scene team and Glendale, their contractors, for their work in getting these trees in the ground over the last few weeks.

Postscript: an earlier version of this post suggested that these three trees planted in Breakspears Road were sweet almonds. Sadly, this was not the case as we discovered when we checked the actual planting schedule, but the Juneberry, or Amelanchiers Lamarckii, is also a beautiful early flowering small tree - it has bright red berries that the birds feast on in late May, early June. 

Calling all tree lovers!

Proudly announcing the second of our Street Tree Enthusiasts gatherings following the lively and productive inauguration of these events last November. Lots of news to talk about, and the announcement of our commemorative tree initiative. 

Come and join us!

Tree Committee event

Sunday March 22nd  11.30am – 12.30pm
The Talbot
2 Tyrwhitt Road, Brockley, SE4 1QG - just in from Lewisham Way
 tea/coffee and cakes provided
 Following the success of our first event in November 2014, the Tree Committee is once again hoping to meet anyone who wants to see new street trees in Brockley.  At the same time we are launching our commemorative tree scheme.
BrocSoc Tree Committee in conjunction with the Tree Council and Lewisham Council's Tree Warden scheme

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The gathering of the clans

On a foul, sodden Sunday at the end of November we held the first of our regular Tree Warden gatherings that we announced in October. We were absolutely delighted to welcome 38 people who are either already actively involved or who are interested in volunteering their time and support.

The handsome upstairs function room at The Talbot was soon full of animated talk and friendly catching up and as you can see, the windows steamed up such was the heat of the exchange!

Anthony and Dom gave brief but important presentations about our work and the need to disseminate information about what we do with the aim of involving a greater number of people to help.

click on any of the photos for larger versions

This planting season, with the help of a very significant and generous donation from a local resident, we will be planting in excess of 30 new street trees in and around the conservation area. That's an enormous increase in our workload as an entirely volunteer led group, so it's imperative that we get more of you on board. We have plans and projects that we would like to develop and we can only do it with your help!

See the Contacts tab above if you'd like to get involved. We'd love to hear from you.

The Tree Committee
The Brockley Society 

PS. With thanks to Lesley and the team at The Talbot for their friendly efficiency in keeping us supplied with tea, coffee, sandwiches and cake! (cake credit to Kara and Friends of BrocSoc Tree Committee!)

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Supporting our Tree Wardens

At a recent Tree Committee meeting we decided to try something new to gather together and support the considerable number of Tree Wardens who have come forward to offer their support. 

We are very pleased to announce the first of a series of events to celebrate our Tree Wardens and the work that they do in helping to fund and/or look after our street trees, a get together on 

Sunday 23rd November at 11.30 am 

We will be repeating these events at 4 monthly intervals throughout the coming year.

They are intended to be informal opportunities to get together, disseminate information, support each other and share the workload. 

We very much look forward to seeing as many of you as possible on 23rd November. 

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Harefield Rose

Not about street trees this time, but a post about what private land trees add to our local environment (what the planning law refers to, rather blandly, as "amenity value"). 

It happens every year about this time, but this is an extraordinary year, and the spectacle even more impressive - I'm talking of course, about the flowering of that magnificent rambling rose that has been growing up the sycamore/maple in the front garden of the house on the corner of Harefield and Wickham Road for many years now:

Not only is it a beautiful sight, but the scent is also worth catching, particularly at dusk. 

The four houses at each corner of this junction are impressive, and clearly the plantings in each of the front gardens reflect their grandeur. The copper beech opposite this maple is a fine example of its kind. Here it is mid April and mid June: 

Copper beech (fagus sylvatica f. purpurea) in spring -
note pinkish tint to immature canopy

The companion to this tree, diagonally opposite, was lost to honey fungus some years ago. It was replaced by what looks like a maple/acer of some variety, and which has a lot of catching up to do: 

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Conference feedback survey

If you came to the Brockley Society Tree Conference we would like to hear what you thought about it. Please would you spend a few minutes answering this small survey so that we can consider your thoughts and opinions about any future plans we have. THANKS!

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Trees in the City - 26th April 2014 - Conference Report

The Brockley Society Tree Committee are delighted to report a little more fully about the presentations given at our hugely successful conference last month. 

Wake up and smell the pollution
Lewisham Mayor Sir Steve Bullock opened the conference by raising the issue of rising city pollution and the need for more trees to make the urban environment sustainable. He kindly stayed with us for the opening presentation by Tom Armour. 

Can’t stand the heat? 
Tom Armour, founder and Director of Arup’s Landscape Architecture business gave a fascinating talk about the benefit of urban trees. He showed how the greenest areas in London can be as much as 8 degrees C cooler than the most built up areas. The cooling effect of (large) tree canopies has been well known for some time, but never shown so graphically for the lay audience.

Bring back the birch
Professor Barbara Maher (whose work we reported on here back in October 2013) gave a video-conference talk from Lancaster and presented her celebrated research showing that silver birch trees reduce pollution even at a very local level. Many of us in the audience were struck with the insidious way in which these tiny 'particulates' (from car and lorry diesel fumes) get deep into the lungs. We were surprised at how small the birch trees were in the research experiment (so we don't need to wait until they are mature to reap the benefits!). 

The Silver Birch tree screen in situ for Barbara Maher's important research
Photo courtesy of Barbara Maher
Dwindling resources
A panel discussion which included Lewisham Planning and Lewisham GreenScene highlighted the problem of dwindling council funding and increased pressure to fell trees from insurance companies. Keith Sacre, from Barcham Tree Nurseries, also on this panel, had great ideas on what species to replace lost trees with, and he very generously brought a pile of beautiful hardback catalogues which he donated to the conference attendees (he is happy to supply more if people ask).

Logging the blog
Eamonn, one of our tree committee, demonstrated this blog (which has now passed 10,700 page hits since it started in October 2012!). 

Chainsaw Massacre
Cllr Darren Johnson introduced the afternoon discussing the findings of his (2007) report (blogged here in 2012). Again the issue of contentious pressure from insurance companies to fell trees was raised.

Living legacy
Rachel Mooney from Friends of Hilly Fields gave a fascinating talk showing some amazing photos of Edwardian Brockley with saplings where there are now mature trees on Hilly Fields. It was a sobering reminder that we need to continue planting to protect and extend this legacy.

Photos courtesy of FoHF and Phil Hall

Bearing Fruit
Lewis McNeill from the London Orchard Project in Hackney  showed us pictures of some innovative planting – tiny gardens on street corners or at bus stops tended by local people; apricot trees in Hackney bearing fruit, and fruit trees growing up vertical end-of-terrace walls!  The involvement of local people is crucial for getting these projects off the ground, and then for sustaining them, as they do, by active monitoring, mulching and watering these vulnerable new plantings. He went on to emphasise how young people start to feel protective of "their" trees once they have invested their time and effort in planting them! 

Greening your street
Anthony, one of our tree committee, explained how our scheme developed with Lewisham Council can help Brockley residents fund new trees for their streets.

No blame no claim
Our afternoon panel* discussed practical issues about managing our existing trees and trees being wrongly blamed for subsidence. This is a serious threat to our tree stock and at the moment legal protection for trees is weak. This is something we intend to campaign on at a London-wide and national level. At the end of the panel discussion Angelo very generously offered to donate funds to purchase a new street tree for us, for which we are very grateful. 

Pump up the volume
Our last speaker was Andrew Wilson, Director of Garden Design Studies at the London College of Garden DesignHe reminded us that trees are 'greenery in 3D' and showed great examples of small gardens where dwarf trees add a large volume of greenery/canopy without compromising space (many of our new plantings are very immature trees and will provide little in terms of canopy cover for many years - and as Tom Arbour showed us so graphically in the opening presentation, mature canopy is what provides the cooling effect).  

* Angelo Morgan from TreesUK Tree Surgeons, John Bellman, a consulting Civil and Structural engineer and Richard Evans, Vice Chair of the London Tree Officers Association

Again, our grateful thanks to all who presented, and to all who made the conference such a success (not least the excellent support given us by the staff of LeSoCo on the day, and in the run up to the conference). 

All of us on the Brockley Society Tree Committee