Walking the Trees of Beeston: Part 1 Beeston Central

Tree appreciation connects worlds. It can connect us to ourselves and our place in the transience of life as we undertake our everyday walks on the school run, commute, or trips to and from the shops. Glennie Kindred’s 2019 book Walking with Trees gives examples of how human encounters with trees weave together and deepen our connections not just with nature on a local scale, but in studying the tree species in our streets, parks, and back gardens, can give us a relationship with species that originate from different parts of the world. This interrelationship serves as reminder that we are all apart of and dependent on the natural world and such connections are not just across scales of space, but also with the deep ecological past of the earth and the very origins of life on the planet, how we are custodians of now for future generations of humans, trees, and the biodiversity of life. How the diverse species of street trees serve to improve the air quality of our town, absorb the heavy rains to reduce flooding, and provide shelter and shade in the increasingly heated up and strong sun of the summertime.

On Sunday 2nd October 2022 this column went live and literally walked the printed-talk by leading one of Beeston and District Civic Society’s walking tours. Walking the Trees of Beeston Central had been envisaged as taking place at the height of autumnal colours, but extreme weather conditions with the heatwave of August 2022 sped up the process and by the time the thirty or so hardy Beestonians arrived at the steps of Beeston Library for the start of the tour, the grey clouds and windy weather seemed to promise more leaves on the floor than in the branches. However, many of the trees still held onto their hues of orange, red, yellow, and green, and as we walked the sun came out. During the 90-minute tour we meet over a dozen varieties of trees and the exchange of anecdotes, knowledge and appreciation of trees filled this columnist’s heart full of joy.

It was a chance to share and exchange our individual and collective human reflections, memories, and encounters with our fellow Beeston-dwelling trees as well as information about their botanical, medicinal and cultural enrichment in the lives and histories of humans in our region. A reminder that the benefits of trees in our civic areas provide meeting places and markers for our lives and our daily interactions, enriching the landscape and its human, animal and plant inhabitants. People walked and talked sharing personal tales, anecdotes and recollections from over half a century, and the intergenerational nature of the tour allowed for children and older members of our community to share their own testimonies of how vital our trees are in making Beeston a wonderful place to live.

Walking the Trees of Beeston Central.

Beginning outside Beeston Library, the large number of engaged and enthusiastic attendees were introduced to the Laburnum and Holly trees which flank the entrance to the library (the cherry trees that are also present there were considered alongside different varieties of prunus trees that have been planted for their spring colour, as well as their capacity to provide habitats for pollinating insects, moths and butterflies). Opposite the library flanking either side of the entrance to the old Town Hall building are two impressive Copper Beech trees. Trees as sentinels in marking out spaces of significance goes back to pre-Christian times, where trees served as markers for gathering places for community members to meet, discuss affairs and to perform rituals and celebrations: this remains true across many belief systems and in many sacred spaces built for worship; the gardens of churchyards, temples, mosques; the forests and trees themselves, serving to elevate and underscore connection with the earth and the branches of trees that stretch into the heavens. Trees connect us spiritually and ground us practically. Trees are conduits for life on the planet and that this vast profound prospect can be contemplated by spending time in the company of one tree means that in Beeston we are fortunate to have such beings in our company.

From the library we turned and walked down Foster Avenue towards the car park outside the police station and the council buildings. Here we noted the many cultural benefits of the Ash and Rowan trees, and observations were made by Pokémon fans how many of the main characters and trainers in the global anime hit are named after trees, (and I am also reminded by younger members of our community to mention that our fabulous primary schools in Beeston name their class groups after the natural world, including birds and trees!).

From Foster Avenue, we walked into Beeston Square itself and discussed the layout and practical purpose of the presence of the ten lime trees. Lime trees (not the kind that grow lime fruits but instead produce lime-scented flowers) are fabulous for cleaning the air of pollutants as well as providing homes for insects and pollinators, some of which are eaten by the glorious pied wagtail community that roost and flypast the trees in The Square. In the summer, these trees provide pockets of shade under which Beestonians can sit, shelter, and scoff their James’s Jackets or just take time out to people-watch and listen to the leaves.

Crossing Beeston Square, we headed towards the High Street and paid our respects to the London Plane Trees outside Hallams and W H Smiths. The London Plane – just like the Lime Trees – are fantastic for cleaning air of pollutants from car exhausts and these also provide amazing shelter from rain and sun thanks to their large leaves that form a carpet of crisp brown leaves in the autumn. Heading towards Broadgate Park, we paid our respects to the Maidenhair Trees (Ginkgo Biloba) that are situated near the junction of the high street opposite Bistro 66 and discussed the medicinal benefits of the fruiting varieties (most street Maidenhair trees are Male species and do not fruit, a bonus given their acrid smell although the fruits are considered very good for the health and the extracts are used in herbal medicines), and a Beestonian helped to illustrate this by showing those assembled a packet of the vacuum-packed fruits he had just brought from the Fresh Asia on Derby Street. Beestonians joined us as we walked towards Broadgate Park to pay our respects to our very own descendant of Sherwood Forests’ Major Oak, and we walked through Broadgate Park admiring the London Planes before crossing Middle Street NET tram stop to greet the small orchard of recently planted fruit trees that exist between the oak and the silver birches on Incredible Edible Beeston’s glorious spot on the corner of City Road.

Turning towards the West End, we walked past the majestic Beech tree that once overlooked The Beech Tree Lodge pub that became The Cow – a now ghost pub of Beeston that had once hosted a performance by The Sex Pistols before it was pulled down to make way for the current Tescos petrol station. That Beech tree serves as reminder to the original name of the pub as well as providing much needed hight from which Blackbirds and other birds sing, and as with the Copper Beeches, much needed habitat for insects and pollinators.

Travelling further along Middle Street heading in the direction of Chilwell we admired the Horse Chestnut tree in the grounds of Rob Slater Autos before we crossed Station Road, to admire and attempted to identify the wonderful trees outside the White Lion pub. Discussions of their changing seasonal leaf hues were interrupted as we admired the presence of the lavender bushes outside the Star Inn and we reflected on the joys of the very old Walnut tree that overhangs the old bricked walls of Manor House. Turning towards Beeston Parish Church and the final stopping point of our tour we looked at local history books from Beeston Library to consider the changes to the landscape and what the roads looked like without the tree presence, approximating the age of the Sycamore trees and sharing recollections of the shared springtime seasonal joy of seeing the Magnolia tree in bloom near The Crown before turning into Church Street and the Churchyard of Beeston Parish Church where we discussed the social and cultural significance of the Yew trees in churchyards, the Scots Pine, and the Oaks. Eagle-eyed botanical expert Tamar also identified a Wych Elm in its grounds – a rare specimen and wonder and a new one for this columnist to admire.

Thanks to all for coming out who enriched this walk with their curiosity and expert knowledge about our trees. I walked home feeling uplifted and connected with fellow Beestonians through our conversations about our trees. We might not always take the time to share it, but collectively we had all felt the benefits and joys of connecting with the trees and clearly as humans this is something most of us do instinctively. Excitingly, plans are afoot to arrange another walk. Keep your eyes on the Beeston Civic Society’s ‘Walk With’ series for when and where this will be, and please do share your reflections and memories of Beeston street trees because it matters to our civic and collective sense of belonging. Our trees matter.

Anniversary Trees

The Beeston and District Civic Society have been planting trees in Beeston for 50 years. This year they are having a ‘golden’ anniversary to celebrate this by raising funds to plant more. This remains a vital commitment and given recent vandalism on trees planted by the society in January 2020, it is more important to continue this tradition for the future inhabitants and generations of our town. For further details see 

Until next time, take care of the trees that take care of us all.

Your very own Loxley Lorax,

Dr. JN