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! 

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