17th July 2019
It is not often that local authority Tree Officers have the opportunity to engage with the decision makers of tomorrow and with that in mind, I pumped up my tyres, applied a liberal amount of chain lube and jumped aboard my trusty 30 year old Peugeot bike to aid Fund4Trees (F4T) to deliver their Young Tree Maintenance (YTM) workshops to primary school children, a local community group and even dog walkers.
A fine sunny day greeted ten like-minded tree professionals riding from the Greater London Authority (GLA) offices at Tower Bridge down through Southwark towards Camberwell Cemetery: the first our three YTM workshops. Each comprised a quick warm up encompassing exercises derived from Qi Gong and based on the tree biomechanics of Messrs Mattheck and Breloer. The resultant ‘Tree Gong’ introduced concepts such as lever-arm mechanics, growth stresses, compression and tension and bending moments by way of a gentle body-stretch and warm-up.
This was followed by an interactive presentation on the importance of urban trees, what they do, and how they grow. Engagement was not solely academic though, and we soon got started with workshop demonstrations on formative pruning, re-staking, mulching, watering, clearing weeds and competition (grasses) from the base of the trees.
A short coffee-stop at Peckham Rye’s Cafe in the Park and we were back in the saddle again on our way to the community Meath Gardens in Tower Hamlets. Here we were joined by an eager gang of local community minded individuals to irrigate trees using local canal water extracted using buckets and wheeled carts. It was great to see Ben Connor, (GLA Senior Policy and Programmes Officer – Green Infrastructure) help with the watering.
The next cycle route was by far the most enjoyable, taking in a section of the canal towards Hackney; passing locks, houseboats and fellow keen cyclists along the way.
Next stop, lunch. Deferring to my esteemed colleague from Southwark, Oliver Stutter, we dismounted at a Basque Restaurant and tucked into ‘fish and bread’, burgers and chicken.
Fully fed and watered we resumed our ride for the YTM workshop at London Fields (Hackney). With an amazing set-up by Rupert Bentley-Walls with a tree contractor (N. Parkin Tree Specialists): kitted for a live chainsaw and a chipper demonstration. It was very rewarding to see a large group of pupils from Gayhurst Community School totally engaged in the Tree Gong warm-up, hand-on YTM activities and the value of trees Q&A sessions. I truly feel we have recruited thirty new young tree wardens to help with maintaining and protecting London’s trees. If anything, their excitement and motivation was infectious: reward enough for a most enjoyable day.
“This was a first for our charity not involving tree planting: instead our focus was on the need for aftercare so often neglected and frequently resulting in moribund/or dead trees. The school children were fully engaged with our YTM workshop and success rates relating to aftercare is a key focus within the F4Ts Five-Year Research Strategy.”Mick Boddy, Fund4Trees trustee
At the end of this 12-mile bike ride, of course there was one final duty, a quick imbibe at a local pub before heading our separate ways.
Article by Liam Bullen
Graduate Planner-TPO Surveyor, London Borough of Southwark