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

Replacement trees planted on Fortune Green

Newly-planted limes opposite mature trees on the main avenue

Newly-planted limes face mature trees on the main avenue

If you’re a regular visitor to Fortune Green, you might have noticed the green has lost a few trees over the past months, some due to storm damage, some due to disease.

lime_tree_label2Yesterday, Camden contractors replaced some of the missing trees.

New lime trees have been planted along the main path heading towards the cemetery where several young trees have died.

Spring-flowering white cherry trees (Prunus Serrula) have been planted in the bed alongside Alfred Court to replace the diseased whitebeams. Over a period of time the plan is to replace all the whitebeams with cherries.

A Liquidambar tree has been planted in the bed opposite the Fortune Green Road entrance to replace the sycamore that was badly damaged in the St Jude’s storm.

The Friends of Fortune Green said “We look forward to watching them grow.” Keep an eye out next time you’re on the green and see if you can spot the new specimens.

If you’re interested in being involved with the upkeep of Fortune Green Open Space, keep an eye on the Friends of Fortune Green Events page – they’re always looking for volunteers.


Hole new approach to litter

Camden council, clearly stumped by how to solve the continuing problem of litter in our streets, appears to have decided to combine its tree-removal program with an increase in the number of bins. Tree stump bin

Maybe this Broadhurst Gardens “bin” is the solution to this:

One tree given extra protection… for now

The campaign to save the Ballymore trees may have failed in its immediate aim. However, Camden has agreed – after much badgering – to slap a Tree Preservation Order (a TPO) on the largest sycamore that falls on Network Rail’s land.

Much good it will do. The TPO means the tree can’t be felled without the written consent of the planning authority, but as part of the plans to redevelop the Overground station it’s highly likely such consent will be granted. Still, Network Rail and Camden can expect to fight a battle to remove this sylvan symbol of the resistance!

The sycamore with a Tree Preservation Order

The sycamore with a Tree Preservation Order

Tree campaigner Stephen Jones, said “We are considering getting the petition going again when the TPO’d tree seems threatened. We are also pleased to see that Camden Council has a bit of a heart!”

Timber! Ballymore trees finally felled

This morning the trees on the Ballymore site, which have been the subject of so much protest, are being felled.

Cut logs are being piled up and a woodchipper is making short work of the spindly branches.

The petition that hoped to stop the removal of the trees reached 897 signatures.

The green woodchipper

The green woodchipper

The trees are being cleared

The trees are being cleared

The woodchipper minces up the branches

The woodchipper minces up the branches

Logs piled up in the foreground

Logs piled up in the foreground

Tree vigil outside West Hampstead Square

Ballymore Tree Vigil

A small group of about a dozen people stood in the weak winter sunshine this morning protesting about the removal of the trees on Ballymore’s West Hampstead Square site. It had been described as a “vigil”, but that would really mean hanging around until the trees were actually removed.

A few cars were honking their horns – presumably in support, while what looked like a stag party changing trains gave them a few whoops.

Some of the protestors were wearing white masks, though quite why a protest about trees requires that level of anonymity isn’t obvious.

Signs read “Towers 7 Trees 0” and “Camden Council Thanks for Nothing”. At least someone had tried for a good pun, with “We’re Syca Ba££ymore”

If you’re not familar with the tree saga, the latest installment is here.

David vs. Goliath as tree campaign takes root

As all bright schoolchildren know, King Canute didn’t believe his regal powers could stop the tide. In fact, he got his feet wet precisely to prove this point to his obsequious courtiers.

Still, to this day “Canute-like” is used to describe people who battle on against an inevitability. This must be what the local campaigners behind the Save the Trees petition feel like. Since January 16th they have been tweeting seemingly non-stop to anyone and everyone in the area, pleading that they sign the petition. They are trying to convince Ballymore and Network Rail to spare the lives of the trees that are destined for the chop on the West Hampstead Square site.

The petition has had some success, attracting almost 600 signatures to date. However, any stay of execution for the trees seems extremely unlikely.

Readers who’ve been following the story for some time will recall that developer Ballymore has decided to chop down 27 of the 32 trees originally identified as being on its building site. This is in line with the planning permission it was granted, despite its own tree survey suggesting that some of the trees could be retained.


Ballymore did realise that it could make five trees Network Rail’s problem as they were just off its land. Network Rail, which plans to redevelop the Overground station next door, is expected to remove those final five trees.

Helpful "infographic" via the campaigners

Helpful “infographic” via the campaigners

Lots of people have been unhappy about all this – Emma Thompson and Jim Carter even weighed into the debate. At a recent meeting between campaigners and Ballymore, the developer repeated that it intended to remove all the trees on its own land as it had planning permission to do just that. It agreed to look at how it might make the north-facing wall of the development “greener”, though no firm proposals have yet to emerge.

Despite another wave of publicity, Jonathon Weston, senior development manager at Ballymore, said this week, “Of the 32 trees identified in the Arboriculture Report we anticipate removing 27 within our site boundary. As part of our development plans we intend to replace these trees with 70 new trees as part of a comprehensive, high quality public realm offer.

We are currently in the process of reviewing the landscaped gardens between each new apartment building with a view to “greening up” the northern boundary at these locations as discussed at the meeting with the residents.”

The company, which has now named O’Hare & McGovern as its principal contractor, intends to be on site in February and, according to Weston, “we anticipate the trees to be felled within the next few weeks.”

In the face of all this, the campaigners hasve soldiered on. One of them, local resident Stephen Jones, recognises that the petition may be futile: “I think the only thing that could save the trees  would have to be some kind of miracle, like Ballymore going bust or the right person hearing about it.” However, he also makes the point that there is a bigger issue here. “At the least more people will be aware of the actions of greedy developers”. He casts it as a “David and Goliath” contest, although it seems highly unlikely that this slingshot will be enough to fell the giant this time around.

At this week’s West Hampstead NDF meeting, the issue of trees came up again. Local residents group WHGARA has written that, according to a different assessment of the trees called CAVAT, they are worth more than £400,000, for which the community is not being compensated.

The passion aroused by the tree saga is palpable. At the NDF meeting this week there was also a suggestion that the neighbourhood plan should state clearly that there should be a presumption against the removal of any trees in future developments.

If Ballymore has done anything, it has perhaps galvanised locals into recognising the benefits of greenery in our neighbourhood and perhaps will end up strengthening the protection afforded to trees.

Which would be good for property prices no doubt…

Trees: Will they stay or will they go?

The saga of the trees on and around the West Hampstead Square site drags on. The campaigners continue to pester Camden to slap preservation orders on those trees growing by the Overground line that are off the Ballymore site, but on Network Rail land. Camden is resisting, partly because, as I understand it, it wouldn’t have any impact anyway as Network Rail has the power to override that.

As far as I’m aware, Ballymore has yet to respond to Emma Thompson’s open letter to them on this matter.

In the meantime, if you’ve been wondering which trees might stay and which might go in the short term… well, you’re in luck. I was sent a handy visual. I think this is what all infographics should look like.

Emma Thompson joins Ballymore tree row

It’s been quiet of late on the Ballymore building site at West Hampstead Square. This has meant a stay of execution for the trees that have caused so much heated debate over the past couple of months.

Emma Thompson at the 2011 charity cricket match
Photo via @bubela

Now, one of West Hampstead’s most famous residents has waded into the debate with a letter, published in the Ham & High this week, which she’s given me permission to print in full here.

An open letter from Emma Thompson to Sean Mulryan, Chairman & Group Managing Director of Ballymore Developments and Peter McCall, Construction Director


I am a long-term resident of West Hampstead (54 years) and have watched as over the years, development has all but removed any green spaces and most of the life-giving trees from the area. I understood from the Council that your development was set to include the trees that give pleasure and vitally – oxygen – to the area but I now understand that you are planning to chop them all down.

Please do not indulge in this act of vandalism and eco-savagery. It’s totally unnecessary and you will endear yourselves greatly to this community if you listen to their desires in this matter.

No-one wants to lose the few trees we have. Their survival is of the utmost importance. Your development will be infinitely more attractive with the trees in place. Your recommendations stated that you would protect and enhance the ‘green infrastructure’ – which it now seems you had no intention of doing. I understand all too well the way these things happen. Give lip-service to the ‘green’ bits and then when everyone has forgotten about the agreement, lop it all down.

Do not be tempted to do this. It won’t help you and it will anger the community.

I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely yours
Emma Thompson (actor/writer and conservationist)
Local resident

I think we all look forward to Ballymore’s reply, which I’d be very happy to publish here.

Hey Jude, you weren’t too bad

After days of bleak warnings from the Met Office, clearly determined to exorcise the ghosts of 1987, all of London was braced for a big storm in the early hours of Monday.

The night before was very quiet

Weather in West Hampstead currently eerily calm; if only there was a handy saying to describe such circumstances…
— James Coatsworth (@j_coatsworth) October 27, 2013

Like many people I woke up to strong wind and some lashing rain around 5am. I was up before 7 (stupid early morning conference calls), and although it was definitely very windy out there was no sign of the sort of debris on the street that would have followed the 80mph winds of the forecast.

via @freyathefriday

As locals prepared for a commute already hindered thanks to both London Overground and First Capital Connect preemptively cancelling all services, the first reports began to trickle in of trees down and minor damage. Overall, it seems that we escaped relatively lightly – Belsize Park, Primrose Hill, and Swiss Cottage all seemed to be worse off than West Hampstead.

That’s not to say that the storm of St Jude passed without any incident:

via Tetramesh

One thing was clear – this was no weather for an untethered gazebo (‘cos we’re all leaving them lying around).

via Tetramesh

Although the tube lines had started off running a full service, the heaviest winds came after the first trains. One by one, almost every line fell victim to obstructions on the tracks on their outer reaches.

Piccadilly Line via TfL
Tree on First Capital Connect power line, via @FirstCC

Trees were falling closer to home too. On the Lymington estate, Blake Connolly got lucky when this tree fell away from his flat rather than towards it. Amazingly, it didn’t do any major damage to the other building.

via Blake Connolly

It turned out to be a good thing tree surgeons were on standby, as this casualty on Loveridge Road would find out.

via Christine

There were no reports on the contentious trees on the Ballymore building site at West Hampstead Square. Conspiracy theorists would have been all over any sudden “blown over” trees!

Camden must have done a good job on Sunday to try and hoover up all the rubbish that has been strewn over the area in recent weeks. I only saw one photo of litter debris tossed around by the wind – and to be honest, given recent events, the wind could have been an innocent party here.

via Eugene Regis

The only business on West End Lane that took a beating was the Bridge Cafe. Plenty of you spotted and snapped the collapsed sign.

via Adam Phillips
via Meg Hart
via Eugene Regis

Fortune Green was the worst hit area of West Hampstead. Susan Smith almost got hit by a falling branch as she stopped to capture the fallen foliage by Alfred Court.

via Susan Smith
via Craig Blackhurst

Further down Fortune Green Road a tree had fallen into the road.

via Emma-Jane Tritton

Local councillor Keith Moffitt went to investigate and was promptly caught in a hailstorm.

via Keith Moffitt

The cemetery, at the top of Fortune Green Road, has been closed all day after falling trees blocked the entrance.

via James Taylor

At the opposite end of West Hampstead, Abbey Road was partially blocked by another downed tree.

via Anne Moutadjer

via Deborah Blausten

It wasn’t just roads that were affected of coure. The Black Path required some negotiation.

via Penny Liechti

By this stage, later risers were wondering what the fuss was all about with blue skies overhead. Twitter split into the “OMG a tree is down” camp, and the “This storm is rubbish” camp. The latter group perhaps not realising that a more dramatic storm would probably mean more damage not just to trees and walls and cars, but to people and their homes.

Kilburn didn’t escape unscathed of course. This tree came down in Birchington Road.

via Simon Ashman

There was a limbo exercise on Langtry Road

via Kieran

And Aldi on the Kilburn High Road needs to reasssess how it fixes its signage.

via Kilburn Herald

Two of the most impressive felled trees in the area were over in NW3

King Henry’s Road in #swisscottage a bit of a no-go… #whampstorm #ukstorm London
— Kate (@LuluLovesLondon) October 28, 2013

Massive tree toppled across Croft Way. Have alerted Camden emergency services. #stjudestorm
— Giovanni Spinella (@GioSpinella) October 28, 2013

By the end of the day, most of the damage had been assessed and it didn’t seem too horrendous.

Neighbour’s fence has been blown down. *awaits tweet from neighbour saying my fence has blown down*
— Andy P (@andypeters10) October 28, 2013

There’s still no Overground or Thameslink as of Monday night. But, the good people of West Hampstead will soldier on – whatever tragedies befall them:

Housemate left kitchen window open (idiot!) and the wind has blown my cafetiere onto the floor & smashed it #ukstorm #firstworldproblems
— Davies (@daviesinthecity) October 28, 2013

Some 12 hours after the sun rose over a windswept whamp, we were treated to a much calmer but no less dramatic sunset.

via James Taylor