Categories
Ancient trees Books Urban landscape

London’s Great Trees – Virtually

On Saturday, I made my second foray into live video presentations with the virtual launch of the Great Trees of London Map, recently published by Blue Crow Media.

In normal times, a launch event might have consisted of a convivial evening in an independent bookshop lubricated with free-flowing wine, but our new reality forced us online instead. I presented a series of images of London’s greatest trees and talked about why they have been included in the map. All without a drop passing my lips.

Here, for those who missed it, is a video recording of the event.

At that independent bookshop, the publisher would be selling the object of the launch with a discount to those who ventured out for the party. I’m pleased to say this tradition continues, and Blue Crow Media are selling the map online with a 10% discount and free postage until midnight tonight (20th April 2020). Click here to purchase, using the code PAULWOOD10 at checkout to claim your discount.

I said this was my second attempt at a live video presentation. You’ll have to take my word for it that the first, a virtual tour of the trees of Hackney, was a great success, but it will have to remain semi-mythical… However, if you would like to join other virtual (and if you’re reading this after mid-2020), real-life events I have lined up, see my events page.


If you’d like to buy a copy of the new edition of Great Trees of London Map, it is available from Amazon, direct from Blue Crow Media and from me too! Just click the button below to buy a signed copy.


Categories
Urban landscape

Navigating the Urban Forest: Great Trees of London Map is here!

In 2019, I was asked by Blue Crow Media, the publisher of some very cool city maps, whether I’d like to edit a map of London’s greatest trees. Now, that’s a fascinating project I thought, and before Derek at Blue Crow had finished, I had already said YES! Nine months later, and after much discussion and whittling down, I’m really pleased to say the very beautiful Great Trees of London Map has been published!

Map store: Great Trees of London Map is beautifully printed on FSC-certified paper by a carbon-neutral printer

Of course, there are dozens, if not hundreds of great trees throughout London, and we soon came up with a long list of 127. The task of selecting just 46 great trees from that list was difficult. And there was history to contend with too.

Following the Great Storm of 1987, a list of 41 special trees selected and voted on by the public was put together by the charity, Trees for Cities. A further 20 trees were added in 2008 bringing the total to 61. Since then, several have gone the way of all trees, and currently there are 55 still standing. There are some fabulous trees on this list – like the Hardy Ash – but we felt London needed a bit of an update. 

Maps offer a unique opportunity to visualise where things are, and on that original list, lots are out in the, er, sticks. We felt a map needed to have a more even spread and perhaps a greater concentration in the centre. After all, it would be great if people used the map to find the trees, and even better if they could plan routes between them.  

So, from our longlist of 127 very worthy trees, we set about some heavy pruning. We used several criteria: we thought about their history, their cultural value, their diversity, their relative locations, and what they could tell us about London in the early 21st century. 

And so, eventually, we agreed on 46. I hope you will forgive us if your favourite tree didn’t make the final cut, but I also hope you will appreciate an eclectic and diverse group of trees that I believe represents London’s urban forest today. I hope it is well-balanced between old and young, and that we have included just enough of our wonderful London planes and venerable old oaks.

Hollow Crown: The Royal Oak in Richmond Park is estimated to be around 750 years old

To give you a taste of what’s included, there are some very old trees, like the Totteridge Yew or the Royal Oak at Richmond, offering a unique connection with the past. Exotic species like the Rotherhithe Silky Oak acknowledge our changing climate, while landmark trees like the New Cross Gate Giant Redwood or the Finsbury Park Almond inspire visitors to wonder at their individual stories. 

As the city grows and changes, its trees will do the same. ​Great Trees of London Map​ aims to inspire us all to acknowledge and celebrate 50 of today’s truly remarkable trees.


Where to Buy Great Trees of London Map

You can purchase Great Trees of London Map directly from Blue Crow Media, from London’s finest map store, Stanfords, and from good bookshops everywhere.

In addition, I have a few signed copies available to buy directly from me.


Fully Revised London’s Street Trees

If the map is not enough excitement, I can also announce that a fully revised edition of London’s Street Trees will be out very soon too!

To mark the occasion, the publisher, Safe Haven Books, is sponsoring the planting of a new street tree in Shoreditch. And as that’s in Hackney, it’s going to be something special… More soon: watch this space.

Categories
London is a Forest Urban landscape

Trekking through the urban forest

In August last year I walked through Epping Forest from Epping tube station to Chingford. It’s an amazing walk with incredible beech pollards and prehistoric earthworks, musclebound hornbeams and rare wild crab apple trees to be seen along the way. It’s just a section from one of the trails through London, from the greenbelt to the inner city, I describe in my new book, ‘London is a Forest‘, published by Quadrille Books on 2nd May.

London is a Forest Endpapers trails
Trail Mix: The six forest trails in London is a Forest

As well as Epping to London Fields (its eventual destination), I walked five other urban forest trails, High Barnet to Barbican, Erith to Canary Wharf, Richmond Park to Westminster, Croydon to Deptford and Tower Bridge to Heathrow.

GPS coordinates for dozens of landmarks and fascinating individual trees have been included in each trail, allowing them to be plotted. I hope this book will hold as much appeal for intrepid explorers armed with phone, map and compass, as for those who prefer the comfort of an armchair or a seat on the tube. Along the trails, I attempt to outline what the forest is and how it takes the form that it does. I explore the rich diversity and interdependence of species through the fragile and entangled relationships between places, plants and animals, including us humans. 

Of course, today’s urban forest has been shaped over many centuries, and I have included insights and anecdotes about the history, heritage, ideas and people that have influenced it too.

The trails have been turned into beautiful graphics by Fieldwork Facility, and feature as the end papers from the book, and each landmark has been plotted on a Google Map. In the book, these appear as GPS coordinates in the margin, so the truly adventurous might follow the trails independently. And here’s the map:

Want to read more? You’ll have to wait until 2nd May when the book will be published, but you can pre-order it now on Amazon or Waterstones.

Categories
Street Trees Urban landscape

London’s Street Trees on the Map (well, most of them)

Some months ago I heard rumours about a London Street Tree map being prepared by the GLA at City Hall. Excitingly, that map is now live and has been for a couple of months. For those who haven’t yet poured over the fascinating insights into what trees can be found on London’s streets would be well advised to stop reading this and get over to the map now!

london_street_trees_2___mayor_of_london
Genus loci: The most common 22 tree types are mapped, and all the ‘Others’ are there too – they’re the brown dots…

Underlying the map interface there exists a vast database of information, no doubt hard won, wrestled from individual boroughs. Each borough is responsible for the trees on their patch and each has a team dedicated to their management. Perhaps not surprisingly then, each borough holds their own records for their part of the urban forest, and each borough uses different ways to gather and store this data, not to mention what data it actually harvests and holds. Therefore the feat of wrangling data from these various sources into a single dataset providing consistent information should not be underestimated – makes my brain hurt just thinking about it.

There are some black holes – for instance, Hackney and Haringey are two of seven boroughs that have yet to provide their data, but 25 of the 32 boroughs, plus the City of London and TfL have done and even with gaps, the potential of this map is becoming clear. Knowing what is planted on our streets is not only of interest to those who manage the tree inventory, this information can start to inform planning decisions, provide environmental insights and help shape policy to improve air quality. If there’s a correlation between levels of pollution and mature Plane Trees for instance, then this map could be a tool in that investigation right across the city. For me though, the most exciting possibility is the potential for public engagement.

The street tree data including location and species information is in the public domain and is released under an Open Government licence. It can therefore be used by third parties to exploit both commercially and non-commercially. And this is where the opportunities lie: imagine an app that can tell you what the tree is outside your front door, or the tree you walk past on your way to work? All possible with the data. Imagine walking up to a tree and discovering through your smart phone that it is a 150 year old Plane tree, it’s 33m tall and it’s one of 253,751 Plane trees in London, one of the most frequent trees in the city. This Plane tree stores CO2, soaks up pollution, moderates temperatures and has a financial value too. Imagine another app, this one educational, telling kids about all the minibeasts that make their home in an Oak tree outside their school or a Rowan tree on their street. It could tell them that an ancient pollarded Black Poplar tree in the local park was there long before the park and that it is a rare native tree that needs protecting. Another app could guide users on tree trails around Hampstead, Putney or wherever, it could allow the users to add comments about the trees on the trail, even add their own trail or check in at the Wembley Elm on Facebook.

And then of course there are more practical or nerdy applications, want to check out where all the Kentucky Coffee Trees are in London? Want to let your Local Authority know about the broken branch on a tree in your street? Want to see where the empty tree pits are? Want to get involved in community street tree maintenance?

nyc_street_tree_map___nyc_parks
Big Apple: Every species is listed on the NYC map allowing users to easily locate their nearest Amur Corktree (Phellodendron amurense)

So, what do other cities do about mapping street trees? New York appears to be leading the way with their recently launched map. It is worth noting that New York is in a very different position to London in that one city-wide body manages the street trees ensuring the data wrangling issues faced in London just don’t exist, so they have the luxury of focusing on visualistaion and functionality. New York’s data is real time, users can register and once logged in, favourite individual trees and get involved with community street tree activities like planting and maintenance.

Melbourne’s map, like New York’s, allows users to zoom in almost to street level, but it only covers a relatively small area of the city centre. As reported in media around the world, users can email trees in Melbourne which while possibly a bit odd has clearly caught the imagination of many.

The London Street Tree map and especially the data underpinning it are tools that could help us understand, appreciate and value the trees in London which in turn could make our lives richer and healthier. I can’t wait to see it show all the street tree data, and with more detail too – exact species info would be great to see.