No to a Sycamore Gap in Henry Road or for the love of Dave the Henry Road Sycamore.
For anyone who travels or walks along Queens Road from Station Road in Beeston towards Nottingham, you would be hard pushed to find street trees. Aside from the alder that overhangs the former toilet block (now hair and nails salon) on the corner behind the billboards, or, further along the stunning copper beech tree on the corner of Alexander Crescent and Queens Road; mature, tall street trees are notably absent.
Not so if you go back a few decades and study photographs from after the second world war – the beeches and poplars that were planted after the first world war as part of wider street tree growing projects for the ‘green and pleasant lands’ and homes for heroes – were growing into suburban greenery, every bit creating an enriching landscape for humans, plants, and wildlife to flourish, planning for habitable better community futures. But if you look where protected mature trees are, there is a distinct geography. Broxtowe’s Tree Preservation Order (TPO) listings very much favour the wider streets and larger gardened properties of Beeston North.
Those living or walking along Devonshire Avenue and neighbouring streets gain the pleasant benefits of living near trees – cooled in the summer heat and sun and heavy rainfall and runoff gets absorbed reducing flood risk. The visual benefits of being in close proximity to trees is well known – so much so that there is an actual annuity value placed on housing near mature trees. Trees add value both extrinsically in how they make people feel connected with place, but intrinsically too – property prices go up if your street is tree-lined.
So why have so many private properties in Beeston South and along Queens Road dispensed of their trees? The past five years and part of the motivation for writing this column has been to praise those stand out trees in parts of Beeston that do not benefit from a plethora of Tree Preservation Orders. The last decade has seen numerous mature trees felled in the private gardens and behind businesses in central south Beeston. Yes, I still miss the Oak Tree that was behind the White Lion until recently.
The reasons given often have short-term money-making at its roots – insurance arguments made or else absentee landlords purchasing properties only to ground-zero remove (not pollard or coppice) trees, plants and shrubs that might mean costly maintenance if they were to remain, to make room for more potential rental builds and increased profit margins. Out of sight for the landlords that live nowhere near Beeston, but not so for those of us who live and make our homes here.
At the time of writing, there is a planning application in at Broxtowe to fell the majestic mature Sycamore in Henry Road – or ‘Dave’ as some of us have informally named it. It is a highly beloved tree and street residents are notably proud of the unique status having Dave the Sycamore gifts to the street. It gives a sense of place and calm.
There is a different energy in the street, one that allows the rustling sound of the leaves in the branches that gifts a nice ‘feel’ to the street.
The new landlord of the property where Dave the Sycamore is closely located (the site of the tree itself having grown in the gap between property boundaries) is attempting to fell our local Sycamore, arguing that it is ‘diseased’ *cue eyeroll of predictability*. If I were a gambler, my odds-on bet would be that the tree will be removed for the simple reason this new landowner plans to build small multiple occupancy rental properties on the site, a crass loophole way round the recent legislation banning current housing stock to be turned into yet more multi occupancy rentals.
It seems now pulling down and rebuilding is the way to do it and removing a mature and highly beloved community tree from an entire street is hardly going to endear the developer to the locals, but why would they care? Make the profit, move on to somewhere else? Hit and run development and the cost of the local community and wildlife in the neighbourhood is hardly sustainable development.
Owls hoot from that tree in the winter nights. Blackbirds sing their springtime chorus from Dave’s highest branches. Bats have been sighted swooping erratically from their roosts in the higher trunk for hot evening on-the-flight-meals of mosquitoes transecting Queens Road. The lives of the bugs and birds, mammals and humans who interact with that one tree is huge. Neighbouring street residents benefit from seeing its majestic display of colour every autumn, and actual street residents benefit from its shade and temperature cooling presence in the height of our climate emergency summers.
So, this column is a dedicated love-song to Dave the Sycamore of Henry Road, Beeston (and your little cherry tree pal nearby). You are seen, appreciated and loved. If a ‘Sycamore Gap’ reveals itself on Henry Road, it will illustrate short-sighted private profiteering greed over collective community environmental sustainability.
I hope there is no gap by the time this article is published. If there is, I will plant more trees. Dearest readers, please join me in this. I will celebrate the success of Helene and the Canopy 2050 campaign which you are still able to join to collect tree seeds in the autumn, to foster saplings, to help plant more trees – if you want to do this, do drop Helene a message at email@example.com. You can also get involved in Beeston Civic Society’s Tree planting plans, because a tree is not just for Christmas, it is for the future and gifting something you will likely not benefit from, but others will, surely that is the greatest gift for the future of all lives in Beeston.
With Holly, Ivy and Yuletide Treemas good wishes,