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

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Tree Sponsor of the Month - November

This month we are featuring a local business sponsor, Kallars Property Agents who have offices in Brockley and Deptford. 

1. Where is the sponsor tree located and why did you choose that particular site? 

Tressillian Road SE4 and Adelaide Avenue SE4 – these sites were chosen because they are in the conservation area and close to our office so we can help maintain them.   

2. What species of tree did you select and why?

135 TRESSILLIAN ROAD  silver birch (betula pendula) because it’s such a pretty tree with its white bark against the green leaves; 43 ADELAIDE AVENUE  snowy mespilus, serviceberry, juneberry, amelanchier because of the beautiful blossom.

Amelanchier - Adelaide Avenue, SE4

3. Why did you choose to sponsor a tree? Does it mark a special event or is it dedicated to someone?

We chose to sponsor a tree because it was a good way to mark the opening of our new office in Deptford. It was a lovely way to mark the event but still keep the link with Brockley (where Kallars’ first ever office is).

Silver Birch - Tressilian Road, SE4 
4. How long have you lived in the borough of Lewisham? Do you have any special memories you could share about the area?

Kallars as a business have been operating within the Lewisham Borough for 7 years now. The directors of Kallars have been working in the Lewisham Borough for nearly 20 years.  One of the things that springs to mind about the uniqueness of the Lewisham Borough is the “Big Cat” of Catford!  
5. Do you have a favourite tree in the area, apart from your sponsor tree of course? 

There is a beautiful majestic Copper Beech in someone’s front garden on the corner of Harefield Road.

here it is - corner Harefield and Wickham Roads (ed.)
Click for larger image
6. If there were no constraints what tree would you have chosen and why?

A Japanese Maple for the vivid colour and the Oak for its size and strength. 

7. How did you learn about sponsoring a street tree through Street Trees for Living?

We have worked closely with the Brockley Society for many years; I was approached by Dom Eliot the co-chair of the Brockley Society street tree campaign

8. What would you say to someone who is considering sponsoring a street tree?

It is a wonderful idea, especially nice if you would like to mark a special occasion such as a milestone birthday or anniversary.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Tree Sponsor of the Month - October

Here is our October sponsor Roger Lewis. He tells us about his sponsorship of a tree in St Johns at the Deptford end of Brockley ward, planted in winter 2014/15.

1. Where is the sponsor tree located and why did you choose that particular site? 

On Admiral Street, close to the junction with Albyn Road, in St Johns.

2. What species of tree did you select and why?

A silver birch. I'd seen them grown on the residential streets around Sydenham and thought they were a striking addition to the streetscape.

3. Why did you choose to sponsor a tree? Does it mark a special event or is it dedicated to someone?

Selfishly, just a spot that looked like it needed filling very close to my front door!

4. How long have you lived in the borough of Lewisham? Do you have any special memories you could share about the area?

Very nearly five years. My special memories are fairly conventional, but special to me. I have a regular run up around Hilly Fields and never cease to be calmed by the view over towards the North Downs from the top.

5. Do you have a favourite tree in the area, apart from your sponsor tree of course? 

I do. It's the vast, I think tropical, ever-green tree in the forecourt of St Johns Church, in St Johns Vale. I was told once what species it is, but have frustratingly forgotten. It reminds me of an Indian banyan tree [we think it's a Holm Oak - Quercus Ilex - Ed]

6. If there were no constraints what tree would you have chosen and why?

An oak. I think they are beautiful, and so English! We do not have enough of them in Brockley.

7. How did you learn about sponsoring a street tree through Street Trees for Living?

I am Chairman of the St Johns Society, which fundraised to pay for the planting of over twenty trees around St Johns over 2014-15.

8. What would you say to someone who is considering sponsoring a street tree?

It is a lot of money, but what could be a better use for it? It will out-stay you in your community, and provide a lasting contribution to the quality of life of generations of people who succeed you.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Join our Campaign - Lots of Ways

Brockley Society’s Street Trees for Living will be planting 200-250 street trees this winter. They will be not just in Brockley ward but in all these too - Catford South, Crofton Park, Evelyn, Forest Hill, Ladywell, Lewisham Central, New Cross, Rushey Green, Telegraph Hill, and Whitefoot. Planting this winter will include old favourites like silver birch and flowering cherry, but also olive trees, strawberry trees, box elder, hibiscus and lilac. Our new "street reps" raised most of the funding, supplemented by grants from the Greater London Authority, several local assemblies and businesses.

The "street rep" role has enabled the huge increase in numbers of trees planted. During the last year street reps, supported closely by the Street Trees for Living committee, have taken the lead in their streets, brought neighbours and local businesses together to raise money, and made their own decisions on locations and species. The result has been not only greater numbers of trees, but new ideas and a greater sense of local ownership.  We have vacancies in most Lewisham streets. If this interests you please get in touch here.

Our campaign continues to be run entirely by volunteers. We now need to expand our small and friendly remote-working core team. Only some of us have much tree knowledge - most of our work is to plan and manage exciting public events (three this year, all in the blog!), to read and write emails, answer the phone, support our tree guardians and local street reps, and manage information. Please consider joining us. As above, you can get in touch here.

Street Trees for Living works in partnership with Lewisham Council, which facilitates and approves what we do. In our council officer contacts we have found not just invaluable experience and practical support, but enthusiasm and good will. This is despite the effect of an ever-shrinking budget and the habitual council role of punch-bag. Without the council's belief in our work it would be impossible.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Your Vote Counts! Tree of the Year - courtesy of Deptford Folk

Many of our readers will be interested in the activity of the parks user group Deptford Folk. Among many other things, they are doing great work with us to replace lost street trees in Lewisham borough's Evelyn ward. 

Right now Deptford Folk are urgently asking for YOUR VOTE PLEASE!

In a competition run by the Woodland Trust, Deptford Folk have nominated John Evelyn's Mulberry Tree in Sayes Court Park, Lewisham for #TreeOfTheYear

The winner will receive £1000 towards the upkeep of the tree. They are urging Lewisham residents to vote using details in this link -

Deptford Folk had a spot on ITV London News yesterday 13th September, and they want to bring this award to Deptford and South East London. The tree has an interesting history and local legend has it that the tree was planted some 400 years ago by Peter The Great of Russia to atone for a drunken rampage through John Evelyn's garden. John Evelyn was a writer, gardener and diarist who wrote about trees, pollution and street design. His writings are as relevant to today as ever and he is a figure of cultural significance for Lewisham.

The whole campaign ties into the #LoveItLewisham and the Lewisham Borough of Culture bid, so please help Lewisham Council support the campaign for all of Lewisham. 

If you want to know more, Deptford Folk have pictures to share and are happy to provide quotes. More info about them can be found on their website -

Email to be added to  mailing list. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter @DeptfordFolk and Instagram #deptfordfolk

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Gardeners' Question Time comes to Brockley

We were delighted to host BBC Radio 4‘s Gardeners’ Question Time last week. The broadcast is on Radio 4 this Friday 8th September at 3pm, and again two days later, and it will be on iPlayer for an indefinite period thereafter. Details are on the BBC website here.

The programme is believed to be the world’s longest continuously running radio programme - since 1947 in fact. The latest episode was recorded on 29th August in front of over 300 people in the Mural Hall, Prendergast Hilly Fields College, Brockley.

The panel consisted of Pippa Greenwood, Christine Walkden and James Wong. It was chaired by Peter Gibbs. For an hour we were offered extraordinary horticultural knowledge in the programme’s warm and humorous style.

Seventy-five questions were submitted at the door, and ten selected by the producers (no, the panel never gets them beforehand!). We still have no idea what will be included in the broadcast version of the evening. We will just say that the last questioner revealed a special and moving connection to the hall. His question related to the murals by Evelyn Dunbar above us all. We’re not going to offer any other spoilers.

The committee of Street Trees for Living has Joint Chairs, Xanthe Mosley and Dom Eliot. They were interviewed before the event, about their efforts to increase street tree planting in Lewisham. The broadcast programme will include brief clips from the interview.

                   drawing @XantheMosley                                                   


Sunday, 3 September 2017

Hither Green Lane improvement project

We are pleased to promote the efforts of friends in the borough who are attempting to get more street trees planted in an effort to tame traffic and improve the overall amenity value of their local streets. Stephanie writes from Hither Green: 

30 seconds well spent!

We would like to share the news about another Community-led initiative with you. A small group of Hither Green residents launched a Petition for a safer and greener Hither Green Lane.

The Petition is urging political decision-makers and Council to fund the planting of new trees on Hither Green Lane, in addition to significant streetscape improvements. Currently, there are only very few street trees, if any, on Hither Green Lane.

It is about creating a healthy and inviting environment that people feel safe in and want to spend time in. New trees will be key to this. Securing this change will hopefully be an enabler for supporting potential change in other areas such as improving air quality, increasing attractive shop-fronts and reducing antisocial behaviour.

There is no age restriction on who can sign the Petition. Please, make sure your husbands, wives, partners, daughters and sons sign too! Signatures are only accepted as valid from persons who live, work or study in the Borough of Lewisham.

Please, help spread the word, talk with neighbors and friends and share the Petition on your social media.

Many thanks.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Tree Sponsor of the month - September

Tree Sponsor of the Month took a break in August. Here is our September sponsor. Eleanor Ashfield tells us about her contribution to planting very many street trees in Brockley. 

1. Where is the sponsor tree located and why did you choose that particular site? 

I have sponsored about 20 street trees, starting in 2014, and they are located all over Brockley, from Cranfield Road to Shardeloes all the way over to the other side of Hilly Fields park. Local residents help me by chipping in a little towards each one, and helping with the watering (apart from the 3 which I water, on my street). 

2. What species of tree did you select and why?

I studied which trees actually contribute to pollution. There’s a great article by the Woodland Trust (click here). They found that Silver Birch, Alder, Pine and Laurels were the most effective at combatting air pollution. I’m a keen environmentalist, so most of my trees are Silver Birch or Laurel, with a few others for diversity on occasion. 

3. Why did you choose to sponsor a tree? Does it mark a special event or is it dedicated to someone?

My trees are dedicated to all those who fight air pollution, especially Greenpeace and Livingstreets, who promote walking, not taking the car, especially in cities. We can all act, every day to reduce our use of cars, to buy electric cars, and to walk more. Improving London’s currently very bad air quality will literally save thousands of lives.  

4. How long have you lived in the borough of Lewisham? Do you have any special memories you could share about the area?

I have lived in Brockley since 2007 and it’s the best place to live in London. My heart was bursting with pride when all the libraries stayed open and my local community library in Crofton Park has actually got better, and has a brilliantly stocked bookshop too. My favourite memory has to be lying on the grass under the trees on Hilly Fields eating ice creams during the Brockley Midsummer Fair.

5. Do you have a favourite tree in the area, apart from your sponsor tree of course? 

I love the cherry trees along Cranfield Road – in spring they shower everything in blossom and it’s beautiful. 

6. If there were no constraints what tree would you have chosen and why?

Probably even more trees to fight more air pollution. I wanted a Gingko Biloba tree (a great clean air maker) but the council didn’t have one. 

7. How did you learn about sponsoring a street tree through Street Trees for Living?

I saw a great little newspaper by the Brockley Society, all about how they had attended a conference talking about the role of trees in reducing air pollution. And there was an ad for sponsoring a street tree. I was all fired up and contacted them immediately! They are a lovely bunch and they really care about Brockley (and about London). I am overjoyed that this program has spread to other London areas since. It’s a great scheme. 

8. What would you say to someone who is considering sponsoring a street tree?

Do it! This is a brilliant program. You’ll feel so much more ownership for your local area and pride to be here. I even end up picking up random litter these days, and tidying up bits of Hilly Fields when rubbish is left out. Get involved and share the good feeling that you are part of the solution. 

Monday, 24 July 2017

What happened to that Blackcap? - A guest blog

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I heard a Blackcap singing in our garden in Forest Hill from the beginning of March. At the time I wondered whether he was passing through or whether he might actually stay to breed?

In fact he, or a male Blackcap just like him, has been singing in our garden every day since then until July 12th. But his non-musical activities remained a mystery to me until June 24th, the day of the General Election result, when for the first time I saw him with a female Blackcap easily identified by her brown cap which contrasted with his black one. They were frantically catching large numbers of small insects in a Mahonia bush flying off and then returning for more. This is the unmistakable behaviour of birds with a nest full of hungry fledglings. What happened to those fledglings I have no idea although I hope that they are keeping a low profile as they build up strength for their epic return journey to North Africa.

This has been a good year for Blackcaps across the borough. In addition to “my” own Blackcap in Forest Hill, I have heard them singing in the railway cuttings off Buckthorne Road in Crofton Park, as well as in parks such as a Brookmill Park and in street trees for example in Tresillian Road in Brockley.

The breeding success of other birds in our garden has been variable. Once more the Blackbirds have failed to raise their offspring, and although this year I have no direct proof of my suspicions, I fear that once again the squirrels have robbed the open vulnerable nest of our Blackbirds.

However, the more resourceful Robins have been successful and have reared two broods of youngsters this summer. And families of Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long-Tailed Tits regularly feed in the silver birch. These species are plentiful and the juveniles are doing well (although one was caught by a cat). 

Blue Tit - slighter & a little scruffier-looking 
than the Great Tit (below)
Great Tit - Images courtesy of
Click on image for larger version
This year they have been joined by a handsome newcomer - the Nuthatch. This blue coloured bird is larger than a Blue Tit though smaller than a Thrush. It has a prominent beak like a dagger which it slams into the bark of Silver Birch - very much as do woodpeckers. However, in the Nuthatch's case it is hammering at seeds or nuts that it has hidden in cracks in the bark. Nuthatches live on the surface of tree trunks and line their nests with bark chippings.

Nuthatch - Image courtesy of
Click on image for larger version
So despite the many dangers of our suburban garden in Forest Hill, many small birds have successfully fledged this summer and are finding food for themselves in the garden. And once again the Silver Birch has had the most to offer them. Insects and spiders are there at all times of the year, larvae and caterpillars are abundant in summer and seeds will be ready for them in autumn. Native trees are always best for nature which has evolved to take advantage of whatever food is on offer, but of all our native trees the Silver Birch must surely support the greatest variety of wildlife throughout the year. 

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

Monday, 10 July 2017

Gardeners' Question Time comes to Brockley!

You will find here everything you need to know about this exciting event coming to Brockley later this summer. Check back often for the most current news.

Brockley Society’s Street Trees for Living
is delighted to announce it will be hosting 
Radio 4’s flagship gardening programme:

Gardeners’ Question Time

Tuesday 29th August 2017 
The Mural Hall, 
Prendergast Hilly Fields College,
(Hilly Fields campus)

Update: 1st August - This event is now sold out, but if you would like your name added to a waiting list for tickets please email