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16 December - More trees please!

An alternative advent calendar

According to Paul Wood, us Londoners are living in an urban forest. This isn't just due to the wonderful locations such as Epping Forests, Richmond Park and Hyde Park but trees can be found across this beautiful city.

Benefits of trees

  • Trees remove 2,261 tonnes of pollution from London’s air each year.

  • They slow rainfall and help to prevent flooding.

  • Help to cool buildings thus reducing energy use.

  • Critical habitats for birds, insects and other organisms such as fungi.

  • For every £1 spent on trees, the UK saves £7 in healthcare, energy and environmental costs (Natural England).

  • Being surrounded by trees can reduces stress, lower blood pressure and improve mood.

Of course the trees aren't distributed evenly across the city and with high levels of pollution and a need to ensure we protect habitats for animals, there is a plan to increase London tree cover from its current 20% to 25% by 2025.

What you can do

Volunteer to help plant trees

Become a volunteer tree warden. The responsibilities includes:

  • Arranging local tree planting days

  • Pruning, watering and giving vital aftercare to local trees after planting

  • Working with local authorities to plant and care for our precious street trees

  • Rejuvenating local woodlands in need of management

  • Raising funds and identifying suitable land for local tree planting projects

  • Going into schools to talk to young people about the value of trees.

Learn about trees - Look at TreeTalk and follow them on Twitter. They also have an extensive map of trees across London.

There are also some wonderful sites which help to ID trees, including apps.

Additionally, great books to simply learn about their lives and astounding interactions!

Plant native trees in your garden - We have 3.8 million gardens in London so let's use this space wisely! If you are anything like me and don't know much about gardening, it might come as a surprise to learn that autumn and winter are great times to plant trees because they need less watering.

Based on the Eden Project, these are the top 10 trees to plant:

  1. Alder - a great way to invite birds and insects to live in your garden

  2. Crab apple - provides tasty fruit to boot and suitable for small gardens

  3. English oak - Great at attracting insects

  4. Hawthorn - their berries allegedly benefit the heart and to lower blood pressure.

  5. Hazel - Nuts are great food for squirrels and dormice.

  6. Holly - perfect to gather at Christmas and the birds will shelter in it as well as providing a source of food from the berries.

  7. Rowan - A tough tree that dares to grow where others cannot.

  8. Silver birch - This is a very attractive tree which can be tapped for healthy birch water.

  9. Small-leaved lime - its leaves can be used in salads, and an uplifting tea created from the flowers.

  10. Willow - will suit a water-logged or riverside garden.

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