Trees on Blackheath
Not sure whether you’ve seen but a number of Silver Birch trees/saplings have recently been planted on the Vanbrugh Park/St John’s Park part of the Heath.
I was under the impression (possibly wrong) that the Heath should essentially remain treeless and what trees there are were either self seeded of planted at a time when it was less regulated.
I spoke to the Greenwich Council gardeners at the time and they said that the council had been asked by “the friends” to plant the saplings as a result of fire damage of the summer although no trees were damaged in the summer.
Personally I would rather see the natural bracken be given a chance to thrive. Any thoughts?
The Phantom replies:
Sadly I haven’t got up to the heath for weeks so no, I haven’t seen them. But I’m not personally too worried. I’m not sure which ‘friends’ asked for the trees (Westcombe Society? Blackheath Preservation Trust? No idea…) but if you’re going to have trees up there, silver birch are, I believe, quite appropriate for heathland.
Of course the heath looks very different to how it was even 60 or so years ago. It’s only been the smooth green billiard table it is now since it was pretty much ‘filled in’ with rubble from bombed buildings after World War II – before that it was the classic romantic wilderness you generally associate with the word ‘heath,’ complete with dips and hollows, like the dips that still remain at the top of Maze Hill, gorse, bracken, mines, caverns, the odd windmill and, of course, the traditional dandy highwaymen. It was a dangerous place to travel through, let alone walk, but really rather wonderful.
If you want to read more, Neil Rhind’s book The Heath is definitive – and has many pictures, several of which include trees that look suspiciously like silver birches. Obviously the heath would never have been a forest of them, but small clumps would not be topographically ‘wrong,’ I believe. Perhaps a proper plant historian can put me right? Mr Bowes?
We’ll never get back what the heath used to be – and so many people use it as it is now, smooth (and, IMHO slightly boring in the middle) that it’s not even something most would desire, but introducing a few examples of native species around the edges seems like quite a good idea to me, and wouldn’t preclude allowing the bracken to grow. And it will help to screen the houses up there from the incessant A2 traffic.
But what does everyone else think?