Dear Readers, there is nothing like visiting a familiar spot with people who really know it, and so it was a great pleasure to walk around Cherry Tree Wood in East Finchley with Roger Chapman and Kate Brown, who have been involved with the wood for many years. For example, I have strolled past these oaks many times, but Roger was able to tell me that each one was planted on the occasion of a monarch’s coronation – the one on the right for George VI in 1936, and the one on the right for Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Both trees are doing very well, and are mere striplings in terms of age – there’s an oak tree in the grounds of Blenheim Palace which is estimated to be 800 years old, so these have a while to go yet.
Cherry Tree Wood is very different from Coldfall Wood in some ways – it has a café (selling absolutely delicious cakes), tennis courts, public toilets and a playground for children. But it is also part of the same hunting ground as Coldfall Wood, owned in medieval times by the Bishop of London, and like Coldfall Wood it is a hornbeam and oak forest. The hornbeams would have been coppiced (cut to the ground) every year, while the oaks were allowed to grow for up to a hundred years before being harvested for their high-quality timber. The Coronation Oaks must be breathing a sigh of relief that this isn’t what happens these days.
The Friends of Cherry Tree Wood have instigated a number of interesting projects. One is the creation of a small orchard – there is a ‘Core Blimey’ apple tree, which is said to be especially suitable for the clay soil of London, and a cross between a plum and an apricot called a plumcot.
There is a tiny pear tree which is bearing fruit even though it’s just a baby, which is always rather impressive.
The area round about has been planted with some wildflower plugs, and it’s hoped to seed the area in the spring. We’re attempting something similar alongside Muswell Hill Playing Fields, so it was good to discuss the various options.
Around the side of the tennis courts there is a completely unexpected water feature.
This area has always been a bit boggy, but has become impassable this year. There are investigations into drainage, but these things are always tricky. In the meantime, the flag irises are having a lovely time, and it will be interesting to see what else pops up.
There is another pollinator bed just in front of the public conveniences. The walls of the lavatories have a history of being graffitied as soon as a new layer of whitewash is applied, so there is a plan to grow something a thick, resilient and preferably spiky climber. It will be interesting to see how that goes!
Once in the wood itself, you can see the ‘dance’ of the hornbeams, with their twisting trunks indicating that they were coppiced a long, long time ago, and have since been left to run wild.
And how about this oak, that might once have formed part of a hedge boundary? Roger explained how the edge of a field used to run along this line, and that the trees to the left of it are different from the trees to the right.
The colours really are something else. I love the coppers and greens and golds.
And I also loved this fallen tree, which not only looks like a piece of sculpture but will also provide a home for all kinds of beetle larvae and other invertebrates.
At the entrance to the Wood the Friends have planted pollinator beds, which are still in flower now. They are hoping to expand out into what is currently an area of waste space, and to use this to increase their planting and to encourage biodiversity. A plan to introduce Pollinator Pathways around the local area is currently being formulated – there are so many tiny areas of ‘waste space’ across Barnet and the other London Boroughs that could be planted up with sources of food and shelter for bees, butterflies, moths and other invertebrates. I think it’s a great initiative because you wouldn’t need a lot of space – municipal flowerbeds, containers, tiny patches of lawn and lots of corporate ‘gardens’ could be used, with a bit of a nudge and some help and advice. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this and other initiatives. I’m finding it all very encouraging.