Sunday 15 September 2019

Street Trees for Living becomes an independent charity

This weekend Street Trees for Living is submitting its annual planting order to the council. Residents can expect nearly two hundred new street trees to appear on the streets this winter, the result of a fantastic amount of work over the last six months by our Committee members, Area Reps, Street Reps, Sponsors, Lewisham council and other partners. 
However, this year, behind the scenes, there have also been momentous developments for us. Street Trees for Living has been a Brockley Society project since 2011, but this year applied to the Charity Commission to become its own charity, and was granted independent charitable status on 4th September 2019. We are extremely pleased that this was achieved with the blessing of Brockley Society, which has supported the project creatively and generously over the years. We will always be grateful for this. Now we are ready for our close links within Brockley Society to morph happily into a new relationship between two independent charities.

Charitable status enables us to take a more strategic look at our aims. For instance, over the coming year we plan to plant one hundred trees outside schools as part of our annual planting list, to streamline the tree request process, and to set up a new website.

Four existing committee members are to be trustees of the new charity. They will be joined by two additional tree enthusiasts who will bring new skills and experience to our decisions and aims. Our charity number and "objects" can be found HERE on the Charity Commission website. Trustees will have a presence on the new website when it goes live. 

For the moment it will be business as usual, and sponsors and volunteers and well-wishers will not notice much difference to how we operate. Please look out for emails if you’re on our mailing list, or watch this space for further details.

Tuesday 16 July 2019

Ahmet Altan - our hidden relationships with trees

From the flyleaf of his book "I Will Never See the World Again": 

Born in 1950, Ahmet Altan is one of Turkey's most important writers. In the purge following the failed coup in July 2016, Altan was sent to prison pending trail for giving 'subliminal messages' in support of the coup. In February 2018, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole for attempting to overthrow the government. 

In a chapter in this book, 'Voyage around my cell', he writes about the picture of mimosa trees pinned to the board in his cell. They sustain him:

"The final stop on my journey are the mimosas. I look at them for a long time.
First I sense their smell, then I hear the rustle of their branches, and the coolness of the wind touches my face. I find myself by a mimosa tree, moving gently in the breeze.
'Have you come?' a voice says to me. 'I've waited for you for a long time.'
And I look at that mimosa tree. I look at it for days, for weeks, for months."

This is a Persian Silk tree - Albizia julibrisin - photographed in a 
Paris park in June 2017. They are members of the Fabaceae family 
of which mimosas are a genus. It was the inspiration for the silk 
trees that now adorn the forecourt of Brockley Station 

Square Barye - Île Saint-Louis - Paris

Wednesday 24 April 2019

Abstract Tree workshops 

This May Little Art Forms will be running creative workshops for children and adults at Gently in Crofton Park to raise money towards the planting of Lewisham street trees through Street Trees for Living.

Little Art Forms is a creative platform that has recently moved to the area. The project was originally set up in Camden Town, North London, by Artist and Art Therapist, Grace Thompson, to bring a sense of community and creativity to carers, adults, children, and babies.

In these playful workshops, metaphorical tree sculptures will be created using geometric shapes, brilliant colour, and tactile ingredients. During the workshops, participants are invited to create abstract tree ornaments using a selection of wood, paint and a range of materials.
All proceeds go towards planting street trees in the local area.

Further info 

Children’s Workshop

10:00am - 11:00am

Sunday 19th May 2019


All ages welcome - 

Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Adult’s Workshop

8:00pm - 9:30pm

Thursday 23rd May 2019


Additional info

..There is the opportunity for people to donate an amount of their choice towards raising money for street trees, follow the link on Little Art Forms (workshop page), for anyone interested but who cannot attend.

Workshop Address:

Gently 405 Brockley Rd, London SE4 2PH

Tuesday 16 April 2019

Update from Forest Hill ward

At the Dartmouth Road Street Party a year ago I met Stuart Checkley who was representing Street Trees for Living, a Brockley Society project which has worked with Lewisham Council since 2012 on a public street-tree funding scheme. The scheme had been rolled out on the Tewkesbury Lodge Estate in Forest Hill, and in other parts of the borough, so there was an established precedent for what I then did with Stuart's support.

Knowing that we had lost several trees in our section of Thorpewood Avenue I began to talk to neighbours and gauge interest in the scheme. I knocked on doors over the Easter holiday period and spoke to as many people as I could. From the twenty-four houses I canvassed fifteen replied positively with pledges of between £10 to £275 (the cost of a tree). I was told we might expect to receive Assembly funding to supplement the money raised.

By the end of May we had identified possible locations and residents were approached to give consent to a tree outside their house. We knew we could fund four trees, and Stuart had given me the names of some suitable varieties that were available. We decided to opt for the same tree in all four sites to give cohesion to the scheme. Himalayan Birch (Betula Utilis Jacquemontii) was chosen for its attractive white bark and delicate canopy. In the Autumn council workmen dug holes and planted stakes and one day in November our trees arrived!

To celebrate their arrival we held a small street party on 1st December with tree dressing, a custom recently revived countrywide, to express our thanks to the trees and build community spirit (see At this event I was pleased to announce that we had raised £1340, enough to fund an extra tree, and this will be put aside for next year. Two other schemes were run concurrently in the immediate area, resulting in the planting of five other trees - another birch, two pear trees (Pyrus Calleryana 'Chanticleer') and two hawthorn trees (Crataegus Laevigata 'Paul's Scarlet').

It is a testament to the enthusiasm of residents that this scheme has succeeded and our area is the richer for it.

Sue Grindlay

Thursday 11 April 2019

Community engagement in Ladywell

We are very pleased to link up with local activist and blogger Tony Major whose site Ladywell Live is now up and running.

He's very kindly given us a lovely landing page plug here.

The blog contains a wealth of information about initiatives and community building in Ladywell Ward and we'd highly recommend a visit.

Tuesday 9 April 2019

STfL in the national press

Our work at STfL was given prominent coverage in a hugely supportive double page article in the Sunday Times on 10th March. 

Our very own Xanthe Mosley was quoted widely, as too our friends at Trees for Cities, author and blogger (The Street Tree) Paul Wood ("London is a Forest" is published in May) and the Bristol TREEspect project. 

Here's the article in full. Click on the image for a larger magnification:

Thursday 21 February 2019

Our 7th planting season - an update

Street Trees for Living is now towards the end of its seventh planting season. By Easter over 200 more street trees will have been planted in the borough of Lewisham, a grand total of 620 since 2012. Once again local residents and businesses have provided most of the funding, with commitments to water the trees for their first years. Local assemblies have also made generous grants. New trees will include Crape Myrtles, a Bastard Service Tree, a Tulip tree, a Persian Ironwood tree, even a Yew in the very centre of Lewisham! Planting has taken place in thirteen wards.

We have recently expanded our committee to ten active members. We have set up a fledgling maintenance team and refined our website and systems to cope with the increasing demand in Lewisham for more street trees. We have updated our website to be as user friendly and informative as we can make it. We will report fully on our activities at our next AGM in April. Further details can be found on the event page (see tab above).

We continue to rely on our close ongoing partnership with Lewisham Council. The campaign requires continuous non-statutory work from the council. We wish to put our appreciation of this and the professionalism of Street Tree Care Ltd, the council’s planting contractors, on public record.

Our work is carried out by volunteers. If you would like to help us to run the campaign and to sustain its future we would be pleased to hear from you. To sponsor tree planting in winter 2019/20 register asap on our website and at the very latest by April 1st 2019. Full details can be found on the 'Sponsor trees' tab above. 

Winter Orange Lime - Brockley Road - plus baubles
December 2018

Monday 21 January 2019

"Free The Trees!" - St Asaph Road SE4

Who'd have thought that a few hours spent with a bolt-cutter, secateurs, saws and a gaggle of hardy Street Trees for Living committee members on St Asaph's Road SE4 would be so much fun! 

Man with a mission!
For years, the trees along this busy Brockley thoroughfare have had to contend with pavement parking and (for those left languishing in their protective wire cages), being used as litter bins by thoughtless passers-by. 

Well, that all changed last Saturday when we went to town removing all the cages and stakes from the trees along St Asaph Road between the railway bridge and St Norbert Road. Some of the trees had suckered terribly, particularly a reasonably mature ornamental purple plum: 

TLC for the purple plum
Sadly, many of these trees have suffered by being left in cages for too long. Several have suffered bark damage and are likely to fall foul of fungal or bacterial disease:

We removed more than a sack full of assorted vintage litter during the work, including beer cans, crisp and sweet wrappers, the brands of which most of us haven't seen in years!

Anyway, the work is done and we are very happy with the results. It was lovely chatting to the various pedestrians and residents who came out to see what we were doing. We've decided to blitz some more of our neglected local streets in the coming weeks - so keep an eye out for the tree enthusiasts with the bolt cutters!!

Tuesday 1 January 2019


 - and please note the start today of our planting campaign for winter 2019/20

We are now inviting requests for planting in winter 2019/20 HERE on our blogspot, but ask that requests are registered soon to avoid disappointment. This year the deadline for registration will be much earlier, April 1st 2019, and we will impose a cap before then if requests exceed a manageable number.

Current planting is taking place as usual between October and March, and the timing for individual trees is in most cases unpredictable. About half are yet to be planted, so thanks in advance for any patience needed.

Our great news is that we will have planted over two hundred trees in Lewisham by the end of this present winter, just as we did in the previous one. Our grand total since 2012 is over six hundred. Funding continues to be provided mostly by residents and businesses, and by increasing numbers of local assembly grants. A huge Thank You to all who have been involved in the achievement.

Meanwhile, we continue to look for committee members to take an executive role in our campaign - and specifically to allow us to abolish the cap. Please let us know if this might be you.

Again, thank you for your support and interest, and Happy New Year, from all of us on the committee of Street Trees for Living.

Tuesday 11 December 2018

A virtuoso performance - Russell Miller at the Stephen Lawrence Centre

On a lovely autumn day in October, an enthusiastic group of some 60 tree enthusiasts from Lewisham and outlying areas gathered at the Stephen Lawrence Centre in Brookmill Park, Deptford for an absolutely virtuoso lecture and guided talk by Russell Miller, a hugely experienced arboriculturalist and ecologist, Chair of the Ancient Tree Forum and coordinator of Tree Musketeers in Hackney.

In the light and airy setting of an upstairs room at the centre, Russell gave us a whistle-stop tour of the challenges facing trees planted in our streets, from the rigours of radiant heat traps, how to spot the signs of heat stress, effective watering regimes, the need to mulch and the pros and cons of tree supports, to name but a few of the topics he covered with such aplomb. 

After a delicious lunch, we decamped to the adjacent Brookmill Park and spent an absolutely fascinating hour or so being educated and entertained as Russell demonstrated why he is such an in-demand speaker and educator. His knowledge about the trees species in the park (and associated fauna) was absolutely breath-taking. He fielded all our many questions about the humble London Plane, Copper Beech, Alder, Poplar and two kinds of conifer (which I forget the names of!) and left us wanting to keep him there for as long as possible!

Here, Russell is showing us the tell-tale gall formed by 
nymphs of the Poplar petiole gall aphid, Pemphigus populitranversus
It was a fitting end of year event to mark yet another busy and productive year for Street Trees for Living. This planting season we will be planting a further 200+ street trees across the borough, each with their own guardian/sponsor charged with getting them through those first two critical years after planting. Another development is the very welcome contact and collaboration with other individuals and organisations wanting to learn from our example. New significant contacts include Margate and Thanet, both wanting us to share our methods and learning.

Our gratitude to all the staff of the Stephen Lawrence Centre for their generous help and support in making this event such a success. 

Monday 3 September 2018

RESERVE NOW! - Special lunch event at Stephen Lawrence Centre SE8 - OCTOBER 7TH

Street Trees for Living invites you to a simple and delicious lunch, with wine, from 11am - 2pm on Sunday 7th October in the reopened Stephen Lawrence Centre in Brookmill Park, Deptford, SE8 4HU.

This is an iconic building which goes beautifully with its tree-filled surroundings. It was designed by David Adjaye architects, and incorporates patterned glass by Turner Prize-winning artist Chris Ofili.

Click here for more pictures, or here for the architect's description. 

We are very pleased to announce that RUSSELL MILLER will be present. He is an experienced arboriculturalist and ecologist, Chair of the Ancient Tree Forum and coordinator of Tree Musketeers in Hackney. He will share his expertise in the following sessions:
  • Young Tree Aftercare - basic tree physiology, common problems with tree establishment, how to recognise them, and what to do about them
  • Everything or Anything You Wanted to Know About Trees (but had no one to ask)
  • Tree & Ecology Walkabout - looking at trees and associated species in the local park - and in case of bad weather, a presentation on Ancient Trees or tree ecology - to be confirmed
The event will be for limited numbers. Tickets at £10 per person may be reserved here.  

As ever thank you very much for your support.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Watering emergency! What you can do


Some of our street trees are in danger. If you notice any that you think need watering, please let us know straight away at

We sent a reminder last week to our guardians and supporters, but it may be useful to anyone responsible for the life of trees below five years old (we have actually lost some of our older trees as their root systems are still immature). 

Young trees need water TWO OR THREE times a week in the current hot weather. 
20 MEASURED LITRES in one hit is ideal. 

Calendars and phone reminders might help to create a routine. Please note in particular that watering is necessary whatever the weather – rain runs straight off the pavement. 

More about watering is on our website here

Thank you for your time and attention. 

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Deadline approaching for 2018/19 planting - SUNDAY 1st JULY


Please note this deadline for requests to plant street trees in the coming winter 2018/19, anywhere in the borough of Lewisham. To avoid disappointment please register your interest here before the date OR get in touch immediately by email at

Saturday 14 April 2018

Our first AGM with guest speaker Paul Wood

Last Sunday Street Trees for Living held its first AGM at the Telegraph Hill Centre. The formalities included a Chair’s report that took listeners on a whirlwind tour of the last seven years of the campaign and an imagined future. The committee will post details shortly.

The main attraction of the meeting was a hugely enjoyable illustrated talk by Paul Wood, author of London’s Street Trees, a Guide to the Urban Forest.

It will not be practical to repeat here the many ideas presented to us, but Paul reminded us how London was a blank canvas for street trees only a short time ago. 

He showed us evidence of visionary, if rather surprising, planting over a century ago (most of these trees in the picture below are no longer there - they are London Plane trees and planted much too closely to each other given their mature height and spread). 

Winderemere Road, Muswell Hill
... and reminded us about Councillor Ada Salter who planted over 7,000 trees in 1930s Bermondsey  -

Ada Salter's statue near The Angel pub on the
embankment in Bermondsey
He drew attention to the large range of species available for planting as street trees –

Kousa dogwood Cornus kousa, in West London

Golden Rain tree, koelreuteria paniculata in North London
This was not a prescriptive talk, but Paul urged care in combining species. He offered the view that planned biodiversity works fine across a range of streets, but needs to be considered carefully within just one street, and especially when the architecture of the street is homogeneous. This theme was taken up in the question and answer session. A local resident questioned the new species choice where a tree had been lost from a row of planes in the immediate vicinity of Telegraph Hill. 

There were many more questions than there was time for, and many more buyers for signed copies of his book than available, but Paul can be contacted on his website:  


++ Paul also asked us to draw attention to the website of the urban tree festival and its crowd-funding page. This will be live for the next few weeks: ++

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Brockley station planting - a new chapter

It's happened! Last Monday, in a flurry of planting, our choice of trees were planted and now adorn the public realm around Brockley Station, on both the Coulgate and Mantle Road/St Norbert Road sides.

Italian Cypress going in (Cupressus sempervirens)

Having had a rather lively debate amongst ourselves about the relative merits of this or that species, we have tried to do something a little different, particularly around Brockley Common, the green space that falls away from Brockley Station down to Coulgate Street.

In go the Persian Silk Trees 

In total, 16 trees have been planted either side of the tracks, almost all funded by Greater London Assembly (GLA) money (and one private sponsor - for which, Many thanks). 

On the Coulgate side we have planted three Persian Silk Trees (Albizia julibrissin f. rosea) at pavement level, four small leaved limes (Tilia Cordata Winter Orange) at the highest level of the Common, and three Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) in the lowest level (to be supplemented by two further of the same once we have funding). At the far end of the common, where the vegetable patch used to be, we have planted one of our most favourite trees, an English Oak (Quercus robur). 

A mature Persian Silk Tree in flower (which are delightfully scented)
The feathery flowers of the Persian Silk Tree
In Mantle Road and St Norbert Road we have planted a total of four Hibiscus x resi (sometimes known as the Rose of Sharon) - small attractive flowering trees, and one Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus fastigiata), another of our favourites. 

We are delighted that John Stainer Primary School and pretty much every business on both sides of the station are supporting the planting. Browns of Brockley, Parlez, Noak, Conran Estates and Selencky Parsons Architects have already made a commitment to water the new trees for their first two years. This is a tangible and incredibly valuable contribution to the success of these new plantings and we are hugely grateful to them.

Friday 10 November 2017

Birds and trees of the Great North Wood - a guest blog

Today, November 3rd, I saw my first Redwing of the winter, in our garden in Forest Hill. It was scratching for food at the base of a Hawthorn tree, which is one of its favourite food sources at this time of year: the other is the Rowan or Mountain Ash, and its interest in both trees is of course their berries.

Redwing - Image courtesy of
Click on image for larger version
The Redwing is a small Thrush which has a prominent white stripe through its eye and a reddish mark beside its chest, which is part of its red underwing - hence the name Redwing. They come from Scandinavia and most winters there is a small flock of Redwing which fly between Forest Hill and the woods on Sydenham Hill in search of berries.

Both Forest Hill and Sydenham Woods are part of what used to be called the Great North Wood, an ancient oak forest which was first recorded in 1272, but may go back to the last Ice Age (go here to read more on the London Wildlife Trust website). Native Hawthorn and Rowan (Mountain Ash) would have been part of that forest then as they are today. But today it is possible to plant varieties of Rowan and Hawthorn which are better suited to the pavement setting and in this way we can attract woodland wild life from what remains of the Great North wood into our streets and into our everyday lives.

The most exotic Scandinavian winter visitor in search of berries is the Waxwing, which is often seen in hedgerows close to the East Coast, but only rarely in London. Sadly we not very likely to see Waxwings in Lewisham this winter, but there will be a day, and often it is a sunny day, when the berries on a tree close to your house will be just right and Blackbirds, Thrushes and maybe a Redwing will descend to gorge on those berries. It is a wonderful moment, a time to pause, to watch and then maybe to consider planting a Hawthorn or a Rowan.

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