Category Archives: Fawnbrake Trees

Fawnbrake’s Fantastic Trees

Fawnbrake Avenue is blessed with a glorious variety of trees – we enjoy one of the most varied and well-curated street avenues in our fortunate corner of Lambeth.

Fawnbrake’s splendid trees

We often take them for granted but they need regular human care, including planting, support in their early years, pruning, and in due course removal and replacement when a tree becomes unsafe or when its days are done. And when newly-introduced trees are in their very junior years, we’ve all been called upon to make sure they have enough water to survive in their new habitats until their roots go deep enough.

This work is carried out, unnoticed by many of us, by Lambeth’s tree department. But they are supported, and sometimes reminded, by David and Laurence, our two conscientious street guardian neighbours.

Just this week, another neighbour noticed that some of the posts and supporting ties of a young tree near his house were in need of repair, and wondered what to do about it.

Needs support?

Regular tree inspections

We believe it is all – hopefully – in hand. On this and wider arboreal issues David has been in frequent touch with Lambeth’s tree department, where they have a keen and knowledgeable new man on the job.

After emailing him about the posts and other issues, David met him in Fawnbrake last week – while he was carrying out the street’s four-year tree inspection – and he says that the loose and redundant stakes will, hopefully, be dealt with in about three months. The tree department at Lambeth is currently light on manpower for obvious reasons.

Laurence and David also report that just before lock-down they walked the entire length of Fawnbrake, cutting away basal shoots from all the trees and picking litter from the tree pits. In a few cases – where the stakes were evidently useless, or leaning into the road/pavement – they removed the rubber ties as well as the stakes, several of which had simply rotted through at the base. Many, in fact, have been loose since being disturbed when the pavements were replaced. They didn’t have time to sort out several other stakes that needed attention, but that is in hand. Of course, as young trees become more firmly established they no longer need the stakes that supported them in their early years.

Trees in spring 2020

In addition to the imminent removal of the stakes by council contractors, additional work will be carried out on a few trees, to remove low-hanging branches, Lambeth’s man tells us.

Tree removal imminent

Cllr Jim Dickson also passed on a note, from the Tree Department this week, stating the following:

Dear Ward Councillors of Herne Hill, This email is to inform you of 2 trees that are to be removed from Fawnbrake avenue within the next 28 days, the trees will have notices attached to them by Lambeth Council’s Tree Contract manager by Monday 20/4/20, informing residents of the reasons they are to be removed.

The trees are:
– A mature apple tree outside 58 Fawnbrake, due to fungal fruiting bodies that compromise the integrity of both of the trees’ 2 limbs, meaning that simply removing the infected limbs is not a viable option.
– A young cherry outside 6 Fawnbrake, which has complete crown failure.

These two trees are also scheduled for the stumps to be removed, and will hopefully be replanted in the coming winter planting season.

More trees on the way

Other good news, reports David, is that we should be getting eight additional trees in Fawnbrake, this autumn, four paid for by residents (additional funds were raised after the initial donations of £8,500 were gift-aided) and four paid for by Lambeth. Lambeth has already written to properties adjacent to proposed tree pit sites to canvas opinion, receiving largely favourable replies.

So it seems we’re getting plenty of attention at the moment and everything is moving in the right direction.

London’s urban forest

London itself can be described as an “urban forest”.  It is home to over 8 million trees – roughly one for every person. In fact 20% of the capital is covered by tree canopy.

The “forest” is a patchwork of natural havens “from the gardens of suburbia to ancient woodlands… and to parks and open spaces.”

(Quoting from the excellent book by Paul Wood, “London is a Forest”, 2019”)

Part of our urban forest – Ruskin Park April 2020

Over in Brixton, residents see red over nabbed street flowers

Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph reported that a row had erupted on a street near Brixton Hill after a resident accused neighbours of stealing flowers planted on the street by a community group. It began with a note pinned to a tree in the street, reading: “Please do not pick my flowers. Thanks”.

An aggrieved neighbour replied: “In an area massively affected by gentrification, it’s sad to see people claiming ownership of even the flowers.”

But other neighbours chipped in, and one wrote: “ARE YOU SERIOUS? This is not about ownership or gentrification, this is about someone trying to make the street a nicer place for EVERYONE by planting flowers and people stealing them and stamping on them!”

The original note poster responded, explaining that the lupins and geraniums had been planted as part of a local scheme called Our Streets, in which members of the local community “adopt” a tree to water and plant flowers under. They added that the flowers had now been dug up and “moved elsewhere”.


A local gardener who been planting brightly coloured blooms on roads near her house reported that they have been stolen, and commented sadly “Come on, people of Brixton Hill – you’re better than this. 12 plants taken overnight.”

We couldn’t imagine such things happening here on Fawnbrake Avenue, could we?

Imagine Fawnbrake Avenue without its trees

We might take them for granted.  But our rich collection of trees, softening the long regularity of the brick facades, and punctuating the gentle curve and dip of the street, have been a much loved but sometimes neglected ornament of Fawnbrake Avenue for generations.  They have helped to make our street an attractive part of Herne Hill to live in and visit.

Trees don’t live for ever, though. Recent years have brought changes. Some older and unsuitable trees have been removed and not replaced. Others have been replaced with specimens inappropriate to the location. One or two junior specimens, recently planted, have not survived. There are still unsightly gaps. And a street isn’t a forest, of course. Human care is needed.

Four years ago some neighbours decided to do something about this. They conducted a survey which established that some 24 trees were missing in Fawnbrake Avenue, including some empty tree pits, along with some quite unsuitable seaside-loving Tamarix shrubs (near numbers 90 – 100).

So David Williams and Laurence Marsh started a conversation with Lambeth Council’s tree officer. At that time – and probably more so, now – Lambeth’s budget pressures did not allow them a generous tree planting programme.

But they offered three trees to start with and, more significantly, said that if the residents could raise funds for more trees, Lambeth would match the same number.

The appeal for funds – generosity of Fawnbrake residents

David and Laurence put out a call for donations in 2015 and this resulted in a fabulous £8,550 gifted by neighbours, which was handed over to Lambeth Council in spring 2016. This was enough money to plant what, in the end, turned out to be a total of 40 trees. This was many more than was initially hoped for and allowed further gaps to be filled. Around half of all households in the road contributed with donations ranging from the modest to the exceedingly generous.

A variety of species was planted, all substantially smaller than the tall, older trees which had dominated our street and tended to damage pavements and adjoining properties. And all were chosen for their attractive blossom, flowers or foliage. The average cost of each tree was £450.

Most of the new and replacement trees were planted in 2016. Lambeth’s tree officer advised, and our tree guardians also warned, that once planted, and for the first year or two, young trees do need to be adopted by nearby residents to keep them thoroughly watered.

Oops! Where did our tree go?

Two trees did die, but all the rest have done well, although very recently – and inexplicably – one of the new trees, planted outside Nos.98/100, simply vanished. (Does anyone know why or how?)

More new trees on the way

Cleverly, our tree champions spotted the opportunity – through the good offices of the Herne Hill Society – to claim Gift Aid relief for the residents’ original donation, generating a further £1,797 which can in turn fund around four more trees. On top of that, Lambeth have been persuaded to plant three new trees including a replacement for the one outside number 106 which didn’t survive. The other non-survivor (outside No.21) was replaced last year..

Protect our trees!

We will update neighbours when these new young trees are in place so that people can, we hope, keep a friendly eye on them and in particular see that they are given enough water over their first summer.  And if the soil in the tree pit seems suitable, neighbours can of course plant some seeds and flowers, adding to the gaiety of the street.



Lambeth tree officers strongly advise that  young trees should be thoroughly watered every few days from April – September  –   not just the newly planted ones but  all young trees for the first 3 years, more if it’s particularly dry. 


All our trees, old and new, suffer an additional risk from high sided or carelessly driven trucks and vans which can either push a tree away from its roots or break off branches. If anyone sees this happening, please advise the drivers to be careful when parking or delivering, since the trees are ours, not the councils and that we paid £450 for our tree!

London, the world’s largest urban forest

London Is A Forest’ is the title of a new book, to be published in the next week or so. It’s written by Paul Wood, author of ‘London’s Street Trees: a Field Guide to the Urban Forest’, the first book on the city’s frontline trees (published 2017).

As he states:

“Can a city be a forest? At first glance, this does not chime with our childhood idea of the ‘wild wood’   –   a dark entanglement of trees, where humans fear to tread. But a forest does not need to be dense and impenetrable, and it’s not unheard of for people to live in them either.

In London, 8.6 million people are crammed into just 600 square miles alongside 8.3 million trees, and millions upon millions of other plants, insects and animals. According to one UN definition, this makes the city a forest. The Forestry Commission agree, describing London as the world’s largest urban forest. And it’s a very special, urban forest at that.”