In March 2022 we bumped into Chris Peskett, purely by chance, outside her house. We were putting one of our ‘I’m a sponsored tree’ labels on the tree she’d donated. ‘What are you doing to my tree?’ she shouted down the street. We knew from that moment that she was a formidable character.
To cut long story short, we got chatting, and discovered that Chris, a retired energy efficiency project manager, and active community volunteer, had bigger plans than this single tree. She wanted to green-up a stretch of road along her local shops.
And so it was that almost one year later, on a very cold wet March morning, we found ourselves standing with a group of local residents and councillors watching the first of 15 trees being planted in that road.
Portland Road, Croydon
Portland Road, in the South Norwood area of Croydon, South London, is a busy polluted retail street, with a mixture of cafés, newsagents, hairdressers, gift shops, trades, a leisure centre and some residential properties. It wouldn’t be unfair to say that it could do with a little TLC. Over the years the local community have been working on small improvements to make it a more pleasant centre for the neighbourhood.
Chris was keen to find a way to get a lot of trees planted down Portland Road – her community group had already planted up around the front of the South Norwood Leisure Centre.
We’d just launched our crowdfunding platform, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
Our Engagement Manager Lizzie, worked closely with Chris. She set up a site meeting with Richard, Croydon’s Tree Officer, so see how many trees could be planted. This involved checking where the utilities run, and consulting with local shop keepers and residents. After some to-ing and fro-ing, 18 locations were found to viable.
This was just the start, as Chris would then need to raise the funding to plant as many of these trees as possible. With a little help from Lizzie, Chris created her online crowdfunding campaign on the Trees for Streets website. She did this under the banner of ‘People for Portland Road’, community group which she helps run.
Along with another local community group, We Love SE25, a campaign was launched. Emails were sent, posts put up on social media, notices put up in local shops and letters posted through doors. The campaign was set to the run for 12 weeks.
Donations started to come in from residents, community groups, larger donors, local shopkeepers and businesses. It was great seeing residents donating from a few pounds to a few hundred. Over 150 separate contributions were received, bringing in a massive £11,985. This would cover the creation of new tree pits, the trees themselves and the ongoing maintenance – including regular watering.
Chris was amazed how well supported the scheme was locally.
And so it was that we found ourselves that cold March morning watching the first of the trees being planted. It was good turn-out. Chris had messaged her neighbours, and her local councillors were there to show their support. Richard the local Tree Officer was on hand. He made sure that the contractors had hot drinks.
Richard had decided to plant Maples, as they are hardy enough to thrive in that environment, and won’t get too big. They will also create a beautiful dappled shade in summer, when the sun would otherwise be blazing through the large glass shop fronts.
local business support
We popped into a couple of the businesses who’d supported the campaign.
Nicky, the owner of Nix Hair & Beauty, was delighted that she was getting a tree outside, she said, ‘It adds something new to Portland Road. We were absolutely happy to add to the crowdfunder.’
Heather, the owner of Treasures Gift Shop, said she’d ‘been here a long time and it was nice to see the area picking up again’.
We ended up in the Gold Coast Public House for a hot cuppa and a chat about how well the day had gone. We left Chris and Richard, the local tree officer, deep in conversation. What a wonderful day. Well done Chris from all the team at Trees for Streets. Thank you to Richard from Croydon Council for doing all the work behind the scenes.
green your street
If you’d like sponsor a tree in your street, or, like Chris, do something on a different scale altogether, just search for your council on our website or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Photos courtesy James Campbell)