Tuesday, 7 July 2015

A fascinating talk in a fascinating hall

Last Sunday we were treated to an elaborated version of the talk that Rachel Mooney (Friends of Hilly Fields) gave at our Trees in the City conference in April 2014. We were in a new venue this time: Prendergast Hilly Fields College (earlier called Brockley County). 

[Click on any of the pictures for a larger version]

Rachel Mooney and one of the early OS maps of Hilly Fields
There was a lot to take in, not least that some of the early tree planting followed the boundaries of fields, and that the cricket pitch sits in a dip created by the removal of clay when a brick works was sited there in the nineteenth century (interestingly, there are other references to brick making in the area - Loampit Hill was the site of a large brickworks and there are photographic records of a brickworks on Blythe Hill Fields at around the same time). There's an interesting picture of the Loampit Hill brickworks here, and if you click on it to get a larger image, you can see what looks like Brockley County on the far horizon. 

We had a healthy audience of about 50 people, and there was a lively round of Q&As before and after the excellent tea and cakes once more prepared and served by Kara and helpers. 

After refreshments, our hard-working administrator Dom Eliot outlined the work of Brockley Society Tree Committee, the opportunities to get more trees planted in your street, and the new commemoration scheme which enables residents to plant a tree in memory of a loved one, or in celebration; a new birth or a graduation perhaps.

Dom elaborates the work of the BrocSoc Tree Committee
The other star of the day was the Mural Hall in the school itself. It is a really beautiful hall with important murals painted by students from the Royal College of Art, namely Evelyn Dunbar, Mildred Elsie Eldridge and Violet Martin - along with their tutor Charles Mahoney, started in the 1930s and officially opened in 1936. There is a really informative post on the brilliant Transpontine blog which you can access by clicking here


  1. Thank you for what was a terrifically informative talk. It would be great to see it shared for a wider audience (I also missed the start - mea culpa!).

    The story of Henry Williamson returning from the Great War and planting the two black poplars opposite his house was particularly fascinating. And I would love to know more about why black poplars have their pronounced lean: Rachel thought it was because they incline to the sun, presumably to the South...but the one opposite Williamson's house appears to lean into the rising sun (which seems positively druidic!).

    The Forestry Commission have described the black poplar as the most endangered native timber tree in Britain, and while it seems that Lewisham have little or no tree policy, Islington Council have published this:

    The black poplar supports a high level of biodiversity and the wood has historically been used for lots of functional/ practical purposes from hurdles to clothes pegs and scaffolding.

    I have found a very handsome photograph of a leaning one in Flanders with a CWGC cemetery in the distance behind: http://felix-schoeller-photoaward.com/en/mobile/page:winner/CAT:winlandschaft/ID:344

    1. Brockley Society Tree Committee16 July 2015 at 12:27

      Dear Anonymous,

      Many thanks for your appreciation. We did post an earlier response which seems to have disappeared ....

      The Henry Williamson Black Poplar connection is really interesting, and compelling. Perhaps it's worth saying that it's the non-hybridised Black Poplar that is fairly rare in the UK. It likes wetlands and the loss of these habitats has been a major factor in the decline in this species. There are a number of (probably) hybrid Black Poplars in Brockley but they are becoming rarer as they are prone to shearing and losing large boughs in high winds and storms which of course poses a public safety risk as they age and decline.

      Yes, Islington does have a rather impressive operation when it comes to public space trees. We've been aware of them for a while. There's a rather nice blog run by an volunteer Islington Tree Warden here: http://www.treetree.co.uk/index.html

      All good wishes.


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