Imagine what it’s like to be a tree in London. Not a pampered sort that sits in parks and gardens, but a rough, tough plane or elm out there on the street. A tree that lives in a small quadrangle of earth and spends all day overhanging cars and inhaling their fumes.
Fortunately such trees have one big advantage: their artless beauty. They need it to get all the support they can as they struggle to survive. And now’s the time of year when it’s deployed at its blossoming best.
Every morning for past few days I’ve stepped outside to a billowing cloud of white. It’s the cherry tree I pestered the local council to plant in the empty patch of soil just outside my door. Its predecessor was pushed over by a gang of drunken yobs. I can’t describe the delight I now take in seeing it fully grown, in flower against a blue sky. But I’ll enjoy it just as much as the summer unfolds, and with it, its bright green leaves.
Now that “my” tree has grown into a stately adult, it’s just been joined by three new youngsters across the road. What a lovely surprise it was to open my door early one morning and see tree planters digging holes.
Sadly, vandals have pulled the top off one, but the other two are sprouting skywards. The tattered tree is fighting back, though. It’s showing defiant signs of life and I’ll be ready with buckets of water to help it should we get some summer heat.
Other neighbouring trees should give it courage and inspiration. A few steps away is one that was earmarked for the axe because it leans over into the street. A vigorous campaign saw a stay of execution and instead, the pavement beneath it was extended out into the road. Quite right, too.
An even bigger hoo-ha blew up over a tree that acquired its own, suitably grand name: the Rheidol Plane. Due to be hacked down for the redevelopment of a block of flats, it became the subject of a petition. Its supporters knocked repeatedly on every door.
The plans for the flats went back to the drawing board simply to accommodate the plane and I’m happy to report that it’s about to burst into leaf once more. Yes, those trees might not have an easy life, but there’s enough of us out there to help them where we can. My trees might not feature in London’s best, and have plaques to prove it, but they’re every bit as important to those of us who live round here.