The Hub Huddle: Trees

News, info, thoughts and links from Lordship Hub, Lordship Rec and Central Tottenham

30th May 2020

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The beautiful weeping willow at the bottom end of the woodland area in Lordship Rec

All trees have some important, basic environmental value and provide us with many benefits.

  • Trees produce oxygen,
  • Trees store carbon,
  • Trees purify the atmosphere and mask noise,
  • Trees conserve water,
  • Trees prevent soil erosion,
  • Trees provide a habitat to a wide variety of insects, birds, and animals,
  • Trees provide shade, food and medicines
  • Trees generally create a beautiful environment, advantageous for mental well-being.

In short, trees help to maintain the balance of nature and create fantastic recreational spaces in cities.

Once upon a time Tottenham Wood covered a large area of the old county of Middlesex from Muswell Hill to the marshes of the River Lea. It was the last refuge of wild animals such as boars, stags and wild bulls. King James I enclosed the wood for his private hunting in the 17th century and it has been suggested that Henry VIII may have also hunted there during his visits to Tottenham.

Today nothing is left of the original wood in Tottenham but in 1985 an area of it was recreated by the planting of a small wood in the south west corner of Lordship Rec. It was done by local residents, including schoolchildren, in partnership with the Council as an area of nature conservation. Planted with native species, these include a wide range of trees, shrubs and other flora such as oak, poplar, hornbeam, hazel, cherry, silver birch, blackthorn, dog roses and honeysuckle. A survey in 2016 by members of the woodland group found a total of 425 trees (with a circumference greater than 20cm), and 512 if elder, hazel and holly are included.

View of the woodland with field maple

Sadly it became dense and overgrown and suffered from rubbish dumping and few people ventured in. Following lobbying from the Friends of Lordship Rec it was then “rescued” as an area for conservation, relaxation and appreciation of nature. The Friends organised the construction of a winding path throughout the wood helped by the Conservation Volunteers (TCV). Interpretation boards designed by the Friends were added in late 2008.

There have been problems with waterlogging of the path and this has been addressed with help from TCV by digging out a mini stream and a pond. The wood is a haven for wildlife including birds, insects, squirrels and foxes. Currently there are tadpoles in the pond so there may be some frogs in a few weeks.

The wood requires regular maintenance to keep the paths in good order, remove invasive or non-native species, coppicing hazels, prune shrubs and trees to maintain sightlines and collect litter. Coppicing is the practice of cutting trees and shrubs to ground level, promoting vigorous re-growth and a sustainable supply of timber for future generations. Cutting an established tree down to its base encourages the fresh growth of many smaller shoots, which quickly grow upwards towards the sky. After 8-15 years, these are then harvested, restarting the cycle once more. This can help to prevent the manifestation of dead or diseased wood in the tree, by renewing constant fresh growth and the removal of old wood, allowing the tree to live for a lot longer than if it were left un-coppiced.

A member of TCV creating a bridge over a waterlogged part of the woodland path (left) and volunteers doing coppicing work in the wood (right).

Work in the woodland is done by a group of volunteers from the Woodland Group of the Friends of Lordship Rec in a two-hour session each month. We also receive help on three days each year from TCV which has included replacing the boards at the edge of the path and the bridge over the mini steam. We have also had help from Trees for Cities (TFC) in the past two years and their tasks have included making informal dead hedges at either end of the wood. Unfortunately, all these activities have had to be suspended in the current situation.

The wood has been reclaimed from an overgrown area blighted by rubbish and antisocial behaiour to become an attractive and valuable public wildlife and recreation area for local residents. It is very popular with dog walkers, families and other park users. During the last ten weeks of lockdown it has become even more important as an area of peace and tranquillity where we can escape from our homes. Children in particular are enjoying making dens, looking for tadpoles in the pond, seeing the wild flowers blooming in the wood and just generally becoming familiar with ‘nature’.

The pond dug by volunteers in the wood and the tadpoles who live in it.

If you are interested in volunteering in the wood contact Catherine Collingborn at


Bruce Castle Park, on Lordship Lane, Tottenham’s first public park, is home to the oldest oak tree in Tottenham, an ancient sessile oak tree which is over 450 years old.  It was possibly a sapling when Henry VIII met his sister Margaret, Queen of Scotland, at Bruce Castle in 1516, and certainly would have been there when his daughter Elizabeth I visited in 1578.  It came runner up in the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year award.

As the photograph above shows a large branch of the oak broke off in 2011 and this is the cause of its asymmetrical shape. There is concern about other branches and the general health of the tree so further work is being investigated.

Tottenham Trees are a group of local people who are passionate about trees and everything about their protection and cultivation. They have created a great website with a huge amount of information.

This information is taken from the Tottenham Trees website
Pick ripe seeds directly from the tree or gather from the ground. Use a paper or hessian bag to take your seeds home. Put seeds from different species in separate bags and label them.

Preparation of different types of seeds
Fleshy fruits – Mix the berries with water and then gently mash them with a potato masher. Viable seed will sink to the bottom and the residue of the fleshy fruit can be discarded. For rowan or mulberry, put the berries in a sieve and gently squeeze with your fingers under running water to release the seeds.

Cones – leave cones in a paper bag to dry out naturally for a few days but not by a radiator or fire or in direct sunlight. The cones will open up and release the seeds.

Nuts – separate acorns and chestnuts from their outer casings and drop them into a bowl of water. Discard the ones that float and collect the ones that sink.

Winged seeds – these can be planted with the wings left on, just separate the seeds from each other and from their twigs.

Tree seeds are programmed to germinate in the spring so have a better chance of germinating if they have been exposed to the cold of at least one winter. Tree growers simulate a cold winter through a process known as stratification. Do this by soaking seeds in cold water for 24 hours and then putting them in a plastic bag (clearly labelled) in the fridge for a couple of months.

A longer method is to mix an equal volume of seeds into a stratification mixture containing one part compost and one part coarse-particle material such as bark chips, perlite or sharp sand. (Or just use compost.) The mixture should be placed in a pot or bucket with holes in the bottom for drainage and should be moist but not saturated. Cover your containers with mesh or netting to protect your seeds from birds and rodents. Leave over the winter in a cool place such as against a north facing wall.

Once stratified, sow your seeds in a suitable container such as a milk or juice carton or large yoghurt pot. Pierce holes in the bottom of the containers for drainage. Small seeds like birch and alder should be sown on the surface of the compost or soil and covered in a thin layer of sharp sand. Sow a pinch of seeds per container. Larger seeds such as acorns should be sown singly and covered to one and a half times their length in soil or compost.

Place the containers in a shady, sheltered spot to protect the seedlings from the elements. When the seeds have germinated, thin them out leaving one seedling per pot. Water the seedlings regularly and give them some liquid plant feed during periods of active growth. Weed occasionally but make sure you don’t pull up the seedlings by mistake. After a few months the baby tree may outgrow its container so transfer it to a larger one.

Your baby trees will not be ready for planting in their final growing positions until the next tree planting season: November to March. If you have space to plant your tree(s) in your garden then great, but if not make sure they are put somewhere where they will be cared for.


The seven sisters of Tottenham by John Greenwood (1790) and the seven hornbeams on Page Green today.

In 1996 a ring of trees, hornbeams, were planted on Page Green near Seven Sisters tube, by a remarkable delegation: 5 families, each containing 7 sisters, a tradition that may well go back hundreds of years. Over the centuries there have been many stories about a group of trees, 7 elms encircling a walnut tree, planted in Tottenham by seven sisters from one family. By 1732, the clump had become known as the Seven Sisters. The group of trees are marked on a local map as early as 1619 and some believe that the original seven trees were planted as long ago as 1350. The seven trees have been replanted a number of times, always by seven sisters but they are now in a slightly different location to the earliest plantings.

The Tree Charter’s ambition is to place trees and woods at the centre of national decision making, and back at the heart of our lives and communities. The new charter will redefine the relationship with people and trees in the UK for present and future generations, providing guidance and inspiration for policy, practice and attitude, across Government, businesses, communities and individuals.” Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust CEO

Trees provide food, shelter and homes to so many of our native species. That’s why the Tree Charter is so important; by championing trees and calling for protection, it is safeguarding a whole host of animals, insects and birds.Chris Packham, naturalist and presenter.

Each tree is a world within itself, teeming with life. A fallen branch is a feast for beetles, fungal-rich woodland soil is a wildflower bed. A hedgerow is a living network, where a host of creatures share their home. At the time of launching the Tree Charter on 6th November 2017 more than 100,000 individuals had signed their names in support of the Principles.

Some of the trees in Lordship Rec

Sally from Friends of Lordship Rec who co-ordinates activity in the Rec orchard writes:

In 2017 school children and other local people helped to plant over 200 tiny native species trees, both in the south west of the Main Field, and in two areas in the Orchard. The aim was to increase the biodiversity of the Rec.

In the Spring of 2019 local people planted about a dozen small fruit trees, including Damsons, Greengages, Sour Cherry and Sea Buckthorn, as the beginning of a windbreak to protect other trees in the Orchard. In October 2019 local families planted a dozen baby fruit trees, mostly varieties of Apple, in the Orchard, and they and volunteers are helping to water, weed and mulch them. And at the beginning of this March volunteers planted 6 more bigger fruit trees both in the Orchard and in the big fenced area to the South West of the Main Field. All the trees planted since October 2019 have names, such as ‘Ginger’, ‘Tough Mudder’ and ‘PearWe’! Most of the trees in the Orchard have labels, which tell you the type of tree, and for the baby trees, their names too.

Apart from the many benefits to us humans, trees provide vital habitat and a food source for literally thousands of different types of wildlife – from fungii to insects to birds. Unseen to many of us, there is an intricate interdependence between all forms of life on earth.

Many creatures rely on a particular plant or tree for example, for their development, and will only survive if that is available. For example, we planted Alder and Purging Buckthorn, which is the sole source of food for the caterpillar of the beautiful yellow Brimstone Butterfly. Happily they have been seen, both this and last year.

Volunteers taking part in a tree planting workshop and students from Gladesmore School digging. Inset, the beautiful yellow Brimstone Butterfly

Similarly the Spindleberry Bush planted nearby, which has pretty pink berries in the Autumn, is food for the Spindleberry Ermine Moth caterpillars. They build webs all over the bush to protect themselves, then proceed to munch ALL the leaves of the bush, leaving it completely stripped by early to mid May. However, within a week the bush starts growing leaves again, and within a few weeks it looks as if nothing ever happened to it!

The Woodland Trust have an excellent website where you can search for information about native British trees, what pests and diseases might be affecting them, what particular value they have for wildlife and much more, at . They also have a good online shop with information about buying trees.

Caring for young trees
Of all the trees we have planted, 99% have survived and thrived, and many are between 1 to 2 metres high. But getting them to this stage has involved a lot of work. Over the past 2 years, local people, organised through the Friends of Lordship Rec with the additional enthusiastic support of Trees for Cities, have spent literally hundreds of hours mulching, watering and weeding. Mulching is a method where you put a good ‘doughnut’ of wood chip around the young trees, leaving a dip, like a ring doughnut, in the middle so the wood chip doesn’t touch the trunk but does cover the root area and a bit beyond. A rough guide is to mulch as wide at least as the canopy (leafy bit of the tree). Without this many, if not all, of the trees, would have died.

Mulch is magical stuff! It soaks up extra water to help stop the ground becoming waterlogged in a wet Winter – as we had this last Winter. It also keeps moisture IN during long hot dry spells in summer – as we are experiencing right now. But most important of all, it helps the growth of mycohhrizal fungii (fine fungal threads) under the ground that enable the roots of trees to absorb the nutrients it needs much more effectively. Apart from a wet winter or a persistent rainy period, young trees will need about 30 Litres of water every 10 days for their first 2 to 3 years. With a hose this is about 3 – 4 minutes watering for each tree.

Dead Trees!

A fallen log with stag beetle inset and lots of evidence of insect activity

‘Dead trees’ may be dead as a tree, but they will be teeming with life for all sorts of bugs and beetles, fungii and eventually flora. They are a crucial part of the intricate biodiversity web. Some creatures are completely dependent on dead wood for part of their life cycle and are critically endangered as their habit shrinks. For example the Stag Beetle will spend 7 years as a larva in dead wood before emerging as a beetle. Imagine eating dead wood for 7 years? Respect! The People’s Trust for Endangered Species have information about this fascinating creature (quite harmless despite its fearsome appearance) and much else besides. Trees that are cut down are best left in as big chunks as possible at the place where they grew, to provide as much suitable habitat as possible.

Planting trees
If you are thinking of planting a tree wait till October. Anytime between October and early March is fine, but personally I prefer October, as the soil is still warm, the tree will then have the winter to settle in, the mulch put down around it will have started to rot down nicely (to help produce all that mycohhrizal fungii) and it will be wet enough that little watering would be needed until the Spring after the initial planting month.

The Autumn and winter invariably see many well intentioned ‘plant a tree’ initiatives – but how often is their after-care thought of? Without this, many of the trees people enthusiastically plant will simply die. So check with the organisers that someone is going to care for the trees you plant.

If you are thinking of planting a tree in your own garden, remember ‘Right tree in the Right Place’. Think carefully how big the tree you are thinking of is going to get, and what conditions it likes to grow in. A good source of information about fruit trees is the Orange Pippin website

The Orchard Project has a wealth of information too about growing fruit trees, and especially about community orchards. They also run excellent courses, some online or partially online, for instance one soon about forest gardening. (Forest gardening is a food production and land management system based on replicating woodland ecosystems, in which trees and plants have been replaced by fruit and nut trees, bushes, shrubs, herbs and vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans.

Lynda, Sally and Alex, 3 local volunteers produce seasonal Tree Trail brochures with a map to take you on a walk to certain trees around the Rec. You can usually pick them up at the Hub, but sadly it is closed temporarily. Look out for them when we re-open.

Trees for Cities are a charity  who work across the Uk and beyond planting tens of thousands of trees and improving environments and involving lots of volunteers, including in Lordship Rec. Have a look at their website.

Stay Safe and hope to see you soon when we can open safely as a takeaway establishment in the park.