Categories
Ancient trees Books Street Trees Urban landscape

Calling Mancunians, Glaswegians, Dubliners, Cardiffians and Urban Tree-Fanciers Everywhere!

I’m very excited to have been commissioned to write a book about the great urban trees of Britain and Ireland. Research is underway and, hopefully, I’ll be travelling all over these islands to see as many of its great trees as I can over the coming months.

Visitor Attraction: A rare and distinctive ‘Baobab’ London Plane in Canterbury

There are some towns and cities I know well, but there are many more I know less well, and so that’s why I’m asking for your help. I’d love to hear about the special trees in towns, cities and villages all over the UK and Ireland. They might be in town centres or in urban woods, they might be in parks or on estates. They could even be street trees, or glimpsed over a wall in a school or a hotel. Ideally they’ll be ones that people can visit and see for themselves just why they’re great.

I’m interested in discovering the trees that are local landmarks or historical markers, the trees that in one way or another define a place. These are not necessarily the biggest or oldest trees (but of course, I’m interested in those ones too), they will be those that have stories associated with them, or those that mean something to the people who live with them. They might be survivors from a bygone age, or trees planted to remember a particular event or a moment in history. They could be those that are threatened by a future development (some may recognise Sheffield’s Chelsea Road Elm from the top of this post), or they could be trees that have been saved by people who care about them.

London has its Planes, and Manchester its Poplars. Edinburgh, like Brighton, is famed for its Elms. Plymouth has a pear named after it, Strawberry Trees are native to Killarney, Exeter has an elm, and I’m sure other species have urban connections too. I want to find the best examples of all these species!

Outstanding in it’s (Urban) Field: A splendid Spruce in Ballater town centre, Aberdeenshire

I’m interested in the intermingled history of towns and trees too. There are grand landscapes that bring trees right into cities like Phoenix Park in Dublin, Cardiff’s Bute Park or the Pollok Estate in Glasgow. The Victorians have bequeathed their great legacy of public parks, botanical gardens and arboreta like those in Belfast, Nottingham, Birkenhead, Derby, Lincoln and Walsall. Urban growth has grown around ancient churchyards and country estates, and remarkably, woodlands survive in the most unlikely places. Towns and cities have been associated with the great plant collectors and nurserymen of the last 200 years, and their arboreal traces surely live on too.

Smaller towns and villages have great trees too, and I’ve come across the old fenced in Ginkgo in the Cotswold town of Chipping Camden, the famous Tolpuddle Martyrs tree in Dorset or a huge Cedar of Lebanon at Tredegar House in Newport. But these are, I’m sure, just the tip of the iceberg.

So, please let me know about the great trees of Truro, Lerwick, Haverfordwest, Cork, Bradford, Sunderland, Dunbar, Gloucester, Aberystwyth and Dundalk, to name just a few. These are just some of the places I’ll be looking for trees, so if you can think of any others, or know of any trees that I must see, please do let me know about them using the form below.



One For the Road: The old Ginkgo gracing the main street in Chipping Campden
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.