An opportunity to make things better
Cassie, who hails from Australia originally, moved to the Bow area of Tower Hamlets five years ago while pregnant with her first child. She now has two little ones. She told us about how when she moved to the street, she really liked the fact that it was lined with beautiful Lime trees.
From her home, if she looked in one direction she could see their beautiful blossom in the springtime, but couldn’t help but notice that there was a very obvious gap in the other direction where some trees were clearly missing. She was told by neighbours that there hadn’t been any trees in that spot since the 1980s. This was a real shame as she could see just how much the other trees contributed to the streetscape and overall feel of the area.
Cassie was also very aware of all the amazing benefits that trees have for the environment, wildlife and our health – they do so much for us. So she decided to put some trees back into the street.
Laying down roots
This area of Tower Hamlets used to be full of rental properties and was mainly inhabited by students and other people who mostly viewed it as a temporary home. But over the last five years, the dynamics have changed and more and more people are purchasing properties here, especially young couples who are starting families and looking to put down long-term roots. This brings a greater sense of pride in the area and a desire to improve it to make it a better place to live.
Cassie said that trees on a street make it so much nicer and that they help young children to feel connected to nature.
When I heard about the Trees for Streets scheme, I thought that if the people who live here are happy to invest in their homes, then why not invest in the street too?
It seemed the perfect way to fill in the gap that was left by the missing trees and make our street even more family-friendly.
Making a difference on their doorstep
The neighbourhood clearly has a friendly, active community and during the pandemic, had set up a WhatsApp group to communicate with each other. It was in this WhatsApp group that Cassie shared the information about the Trees for Streets scheme, which allows individuals or groups to donate money to sponsor the planting of new street trees in their neighbourhoods.
The community joined together to raise money for their trees within just one week!
Due to the layout of the gaps, the council were actually able to plant two trees in that stretch of road – which is a bonus! The street was already lined with Lime trees, and the council Tree Officers opted to plant a smaller variety of Lime called ‘Greenspire’ (Tilia cordata) in one spot, and a White Birch (Betula Pubescens) further along, both with beautiful green foliage.
These trees are already quite mature, standing at more than 3 metres high, so have had an immediate impact on their surroundings.
They’ll look great as an addition to the avenue of older trees along the street, attracting wildlife, and providing some much-needed shade as they grow.
A street transformed
There has clearly been a lot of excitement and positivity around the planting of the new trees. Cassie said it has generated quite a buzz in the community with people taking ownership over the maintenance of the trees by sharing the responsibility for watering them.
She said, “This street used to be a rat run, but the other end has been blocked off with large wooden planters with trees in them, and it’s much quieter now. There also used to be a lot of litter, because of the takeaways and shops nearby, but that has reduced since the trees were planted at this end of the street.”
With such a good result, Cassie says the neighbours are now keen to make even more improvements to the area and would like to look at getting the pavements fixed. People power is unstoppable once it gets going!
Trees make our streets better
The benefits that trees bring to urban areas are amazing. They help us by:
- Improving our mental and physical health
- Absorbing air pollution
- Protecting from flooding
- Encouraging calm and careful driving
- Providing a home for wildlife
- Reducing littering and fly-tipping
- Making the neighbourhoods better places to live
Sponsor a tree on your street
If you’d like to be like Cassie and help fill your street with trees, then please use our online sponsorship request app, which lets you pick a location on our interactive map.