National Tree Week — the UK’s largest annual tree celebration, marking the start of the winter tree planting season — starts today. We’ll be posting tree-related things sporadically throughout the week to celebrate, both here and on our social media accounts. To kick things off, Clare Wadd reviews latest Paul Wood publication London Tree Walks: Arboreal Ambles Through The Green Metropolis.
London Tree Walks is the new book by Paul Wood, author of London’s Street Trees and London is a Forest. Since London’s Street Trees came out in 2017, including a few walks at the end, Paul has been combining his love of street trees with walks that incorporate some of the city’s most interesting and impressive specimens and London Tree Walks features 12 of those walks.
The majority of the walks are relatively central — Ealing and Barnes are as suburban as Paul strays — and range in length from 1-7 miles, so perfect for a leisurely few hours or half day. The routes are easy to follow and are clearly shown on maps as well as being carefully described, and there are high quality photos throughout. The thought and care that has gone into this lovely book is illustrated by the fact that the walks are all themed as well as by their names, which include ‘London’s Urban Arboretum’ and the fabulous ‘How the Elephant Got Its Trunk’.
The walks are intended to showcase some of London’s best trees, and lovers of Paul’s other books won’t be surprised to see a walk through Bermondsey, one round Hackney, or to find a Pimlico circular within its pages. For the uninitiated, Bermondsey is known for its Trees of Heaven, planted in the 1920s and 1930s, thanks to the influence of its then Mayor, Ada Salter; Hackney has over 350 street trees and cultivars, meaning its arboreal diversity reflects its cultural diversity; and Pimlico, known for its London Planes, has many street trees newly planted this century.
As well as information about the most interesting of London’s trees, the pages of London’s Tree Walks are packed with history and diverse cultural references. Caught by the River readers might be especially interested in ‘Rock Family Trees’, an exploration of south west London’s musical heritage from Barnes to Battersea Power Station. As well as the obvious — Mark Bolan’s tree and Pink Floyd’s inflatable pig — its landmarks include the Brompton Cemetery grave of Kit Lambert, manager of The Who; The Rolling Stones’ first flat; cool sixties and seventies clothes shops on the King’s Road; the studio where Nick Drake’s albums were recorded; and a blue plaque to Bob Marley.
This is a lovely book for anyone who enjoys exploring London on foot, but is looking for new routes and a new focus for their wanderings.