The Urban Tree Festival 2020 launched at the weekend, it’s online and runs from Saturday 16 May to Sunday 24 May. This year, for obvious reasons, it is wholly virtual, and I’m sorry to not be able to lead my City of London Tree walk originally scheduled for this week. Go online, follow on twitter & Instagram, check out all the great things they have to offer and get involved. It’ll be a treat with lots of surprises – you’ll love it.
I was an urban walker before lockdown. People who know me, have probably heard me say so many times that your walk starts just outside your front door. Urban walkers more often than not think of their walks as first walking to a form of public transport, riding to your start point and walking. Even with that mentality I was probably so familiar with the walk down to the Thames Path, which for me is very close, that I didn’t always notice the trees or birdlife or flowers on this stretch. Well lockdown as changed all that. I take a lot my notice of all the things just outside my front door these days, including trees. I’m not sure how much my tree knowledge is improving – it still probably hovers at novice – but my interest has definitely blossomed.
A couple of times, over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of co-hosting street tree walks with Paul Wood, aka @thestreettree, and I really recommend his books, London’s Street Trees and London is a Forest, as well his talks and blogs. They’ve been a lot of fun as well as informative. These walks allow the space and time to talk about the trees in situ and perform a sort of field study. Sadly, these opportunities are not available to us right now. But trust me, once we are able to meet in groups again, I’ll get something going out there on the streets. Until then when you’re out and about local walking remember to check out the trees.
Round the corner from me is a highly influential 1950s development of flats and houses, but mostly flats, by the pioneering architects/developers Eric Lyons and Geoffrey Townsend, the Parkleys estate. As well as the architecture, the tree planting is spectacular. It is integral to the landscaping and if you know anybody who deals with landscape, they will tell you some simple solutions adopted at the start of any property developing will improve the outdoor world immensely and is the most cost-effective time to adopt it. This estate is such a delight because there are so many different trees, I don’t really know what a lot of them are but it’s fun trying to find out.
I’m experimenting with different identifying apps with differing results and have so far found one of the better ways to walk with trees in mind is to visit the TreeTalk website. You can enter your postcode and get a walk from your door with the trees of note listed. Me and Clare, aka @innerlondramb, did one of these the other week that was incredibly enjoyable. There’s also an app TreeTalk that you can use when you’re out and about. It’s pretty self-explanatory and well worth a download and, of course, you can follow them on twitter but I don’t think there’s an Instagram account.
As well as Parkleys, a little further away from me is the Ham Riverside Lands estate. This time this is predominantly a 60s built estate of 2 or 3 storey houses with off street parking for the cars. (Probably not enough parking for the number of cars but that’s for another day and maybe another blog.) There is plenty, perhaps defined in today’s terms, a ridiculous amount of green space with trees, shrubs and flowers planted. And I can’t wait to ‘do’ a TreeTalk walk around here even if lockdown gets lifted tomorrow. (Lockdown won’t get lifted tomorrow though.) If you like, or think you’ll like, tree trails try @ticlme on twitter. For those of you familiar with walking in the City of London, especially visiting their pocket parks, you might have noticed the tree trail. As well as being informative it’s also easy to follow and playful.
As the lockdown evolves, with its now even more confusing and often conflicting information, I’m being encouraged by the Government to drive to exercise. At the same time many of these places that might be potential sites to visit are urging me to stay away. In London, I see buses, trains and underground trains empty or sparsely passengered, rattle by all day but I’m discouraged to ride them, but I could drive, on my own, adding car journeys and pollution if I wanted, even outside rush hour. I’ve never been convinced by this ‘all in it together’ guff and daily it becomes more clear that the poorer you are (and trust me I’m very privileged) the worse lockdown is for you but probably nothing compared to the horror show you’ll have to endure on the journey out. It looks like local walking is on the agenda in London for a good while longer, so why not take more note of the trees as you wander around and then lobby your council to plant more and better ones.
Don’t forget – please have a look at Urban Tree Festival 2020.
If you like the flavour of this blog why not try: https://talesfromhansonstreetw1.wordpress.com/2020/05/18/the-state-of-soho-lockdown/
The walking class hero lockdown days playlist: