Here’s a quick quiz. How many trees are there in London? More or less than one million? More or less than 10 million? In fact, there are seven million trees lining our pavements and parks, but they are fighting for their survival. Next month, the Greater London Authority will report on what it calls the ‘chainsaw massacre’ currently being exercised on this urban wood. Local councils are responsible for their trees, but they are not necessarily to blame for their depletion.
Look instead to assaults by utility companies digging up roads, lorries crashing into low branches, new developments edging them out, mobile-phone companies demanding they are cut back. Once they’re down, resources to replace them are few. Harrow has lost 5,000 trees in the past five years, and planted only 1,750. Croydon has lost 2,000 of its 35,000 trees, and cannot replace them. Each tree lost means we lose a little much needed green in our concrete city. Walk along the Embankment and imagine it without trees. They remind us of changing seasons and the enchantment of nature. The great Georgian and Victorian planners of London knew this: we must uphold their ideals.