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 

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Conference Report - a quick snapshot

Well, what can we say? We're bowled over!!

The Brockley Society's first ever conference "Trees in the City" held at LeSoCo last Saturday was a huge success, with a total audience over the day of 110 (and never less than about 50!). 

Tom Armour, our opening speaker, Chartered landscape architect,
founder and head of Landscape Architecture Business, Arup, London

Many had travelled a considerable distance to join us, and we were delighted with the range and expertise of our speakers who kept us engaged throughout the day (and one, via video link, all the way from Lancaster!).

Perhaps among the most rewarding comment after the event was this one, which illustrates rather wonderfully what can be done by raising awareness of the importance of our green environment, and our trees in particular: 

It took my husband and I longer to walk home after this inspiring conference because we noticed ALL the trees - our relationship with them has changed us forever!  Thank you. 

There is a lot to glean from such an event, and the BrocSoc Tree Committee are meeting this coming weekend to debrief and start following up on the many conversations and connections that were made during the day. 

In the meantime, a huge Thank You to those of you who came along and, and our gratitude to our presenters and panellists who did such a splendid job on the day. 

We will be posting a fuller account of the day in due course. 

The Brockley Society Tree Committee

Friday, 4 April 2014

Matters Sahari

The recent arrival of Saharan dust has again highlighted the subject of air pollution and is a reminder why trees are essential for the urban environment. 

See image here

After 15 years of warnings, the EU has now launched legal proceedings against the UK for failing to reduce "excessive" levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) air pollution - mostly diesel particulates from traffic fumes. The government has pushed back its own targets to cut emissions and is showing little will to prioritise the issue.

We know that trees reduce pollution levels by as much as 30% 

... and have reported here on innovative and inexpensive ways in which tree canopies help to capture and remove these dangerous pollutants from our air, and the scientist who has recently published on the subject will be joining us via Skype on Saturday 26th April to talk about her work (see April 2014 Conference tab above). 

Let's keep planting and replacing trees so that we can all breathe more easily.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

London Plane 1 Developers 0

Last week, the London Evening Standard ran a rather reassuring story about the thwarted ambitions of a property developer who was attempting to build a three storey subterranean basement complex under his Holland Park home. The development was thrown out by Kensington & Chelsea Planning because the work would have involved cutting through the roots of two very mature 60 ft London Plane trees. 

Jonathan Bore, Executive Director of Planning in K&C said: "The impact of development on the health, stability, appearance and longevity of high quality trees on and near the site would be such that the character and appearance of the property and the Holland Park Conservation Area would be harmfully altered". 

Hilly Fields Crescent Plane Tree avenue - February 2014

The ultimate irony is that the applicant, Edmund Lazarus, was appointed by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, as Chairman of the London Green Fund, a £100 million project to invest in schemes to cut carbon emissions. 

Full story here.

Green Park -  famous for its avenues of
mature London Plane (Platanus × acerifolia)
October 2013

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Health Trees, Healthy People - Arboricultural Association Conference

Following on from an increasing body of evidence of the link between human health (physical and psychological) and the wider green environment, the Arboricultural Association is holding a conference this September in London on the subject. 

It will run for three days between 14-17 September at The Royal Holloway, University of London. 

Details here:

And here's a reminder of what can be achieved when we plant the right trees in the right places (Manor Avenue, a few days ago): 

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Deforestation - local & global

Just as we announce the planting of three new jointly-funded street trees in Millmark Grove in this planting round (see last post), sadly we have to report the loss of two existing mature street trees in the same road, one lost to disease, the other a casualty of the high winds in the last few weeks:

We really are having to work hard to replace these losses as established trees come to the end of their lives, fall victim to disease or succumb to storm damage. 

Global deforestation

On a larger scale entirely, new technology is now making it possible to track the loss of the planet's rain forests in near real-time. Using satellite images and data gathered at ground level, startling statistics are waking us up to the scale of the losses: between 2000 and 2012, 230 million hectares of forest have been felled, that's:

230,000,000 hectares

... which, put in more comprehensible terms, is the equivalent of 50 football fields of trees being cut down, every minute of every day over the past 12 years. That is truly staggering.  

The link below takes you to the item: