We love leafy West Hampstead, let’s keep it that way.

Recently the Mayor’s office published this map of all the street trees in London – colour coded. This dendrophile’s wet dream covers all of London but if you put your postcode in the top-right corner then you can zoom in on West Hampstead.

From City Hall's tree map of London

From City Hall’s tree map of London

By unclicking certain dots you can see what West Hampstead would look like without, for example, its Plane trees. This could really happen as all London’s magnificent Plane trees (e.g along the Embankment) are coming to the end of their lives.

Leafy West Hampstead

Leafy West Hampstead

To find out more about trees in West Hampstead WHL spoke to Riccardo Arnone, Camden’s tree officer for this part of the borough (area 2 to be exact).  For each area the Tree Department has a three-year programme of inspection and replacement; our next one is due in 2018/19. He deals with trees on streets, on council estates and in parks, but not those on private land.

Did you know that if you see a diseased, dying or dead tree you can report it to Camden via the trees section website. And if you really care about trees, you can help water the newly planted ones. We are having another very dry spell but the watering contract hasn’t started yet so any young trees around are getting very thirsty. It costs about £100 to plant each tree, but for Riccardo it’s not just about the money but also about the loss of something living. “It’s a shame to lose a tree”.

It’s a bit too early to be 100% sure of the underlying reason, but Camden’s Tree Department is having to adjust its tree stock due to the impact of changes in the climate. There are new pests and diseases, such as the Oak Processionary moth as monitored on Fortune Green back in 2015, and longer dry periods such as we are experiencing now. That, plus managing subsidence risk, means Camden is planting smaller varieties such as Amalanchier. Although this is a fine tree (with delicious berries) it isn’t a true replacement for the trees we are losing as it doesn’t provide much shade on a hot summer’s day.

They look fine now, but long term the Plane trees are too close together.

They look fine now, but these Plane trees are too close together.

West Hampstead has also lost a number of established trees to recent redevelopments, and despite promises at the time they don’t seem to have been replaced. Yes, there new trees outside the Ballymore development in West Hampstead Square, indeed they are Plane trees. Great, given the prospect of many of the older ones reaching the end of their lives, except… they are planted too close to each other. Sigh.

If you like our trees, and they are what makes makes West Hampstead nice and green, then look out for the tree walk the Friends of Fortune Green have lined up for the autumn. The last one they organised was a few years ago and more than 60 residents joined – the highest number Camden had ever had for a tree walk. In the meantime here’s a reminder of one of the area’s greatest trees.

Image via Louise O'Keefe

Image via Louise O’Keefe

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