28 October 2023
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St Mary’s Churchyard has played a significant role in the Hornsey community for nearly 800 years. After the loss of some heritage trees, local charity Friends of Hornsey Church Tower decided to follow the old adage “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.”

Community green space for all

Situated in the heart of Hornsey, London, is St Mary’s Churchyard, a quaint park with a wonderful medieval tower – the remains of the church that has long since been removed. But this patch of land is so much more than just a historical location – it serves as a community space for all to use. It is open at all times, providing a calm area for sitting, strolling and picnicking, and local schools visit for educational outings. The tower is used as an intimate venue for the arts, and for local communities to meet in.

This modern day use of the historic landmark has been kept alive by a dedicated team of volunteers from the Friends of Hornsey Church Tower charity, whose hard work and passion has ensured that the space will continue to play an important part in Hornsey life well into the future.

Where one tree falls…

An important aspect of caring for this landmark is maintaining the ancient churchyard. Old age had made some of the heritage trees precarious for visitors, and they either had to come down for health and safety, or a storm did the job.

The Friends of Hornsey Church Tower grew concerned about the dwindling tree canopy and decided to do something about it, drawing up plans for a Tree Planting Project.

A winter view of the churchyard from atop the tower

…another one may grow

Peter, a founding member of the charity, told us, “As a small group of dedicated volunteers we were looking for ideas to realise our Tree Project both financially and practically. Having clarified our aims and objectives, we approached Alex, Haringey Council’s Tree and Nature Conservation Officer, who gave us very helpful advice.”

The dedicated volunteers then set about fundraising by approaching the Tree Trust for Haringey, another local charity, who generously awarded a grant of £1,000.

After some more fundraising, they had the funds to get 10 new trees planted, but the question was – how?

Enter Trees for Streets

Peter got in touch with Lizzie, our Council & Local Engagement Manager, who liaised with Haringey Council to navigate topics such as land ownership and tree locations.

One of the practical concerns they had was the issue of how to plant and water the proposed trees.

We were delighted when we discovered the Trees for Streets scheme solved that concern,” Peter told us.

Through our scheme, Haringey Council planted the 10 trees, and will water them during the warmer months for the first three years to help them establish.

We asked Lizzie how she felt the project went; “It was a smooth process, and Haringey Council went above and beyond to give the team of volunteers the trees they had hoped for. Seeing the trees in place was really comforting – they make such a positive enhancement to the community and the biodiversity of the space.”

Frances and Peter with the sponsored trees before they were planted
3 of the newly sponsored trees

A new generation of trees

These 10 trees will join the existing beautiful mature trees dotted around the churchyard, ranging from English oaks to ginkgos to magnolias.

The volunteers are also fully aware of the environmental benefits trees provide, most notably helping with the water logging the churchyard experiences, by absorbing excess rainwater.

Peter is thrilled with the result. “We hope the trees will provide an opportunity for people to linger and experience peace and a sense of well-being away from the rush of life; something churchyards have offered over the centuries.”

Let’s plant more trees

We love supporting projects like these – where caring residents just want to see their community thrive. If you interested about sponsoring a tree, you can click here to find out if we work with your local council. If you’re thinking bigger – reach out to our team on hello@treesforstreets.org