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 commonground.org.uk/tree-dressing-day). 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

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