Isolation diary: Talking trees

These two magnificent trees – a willow and a horse chestnut – stand directly opposite my house and give me a great deal of pleasure. It’s a bit grey and blustery today, so it’s not the best photo.

Years ago someone told me that London is, technically, a forest. That may seem unlikely but there are 8.4 million trees in Greater London to be found in gardens and parks and on streets. According to The Mayor of London, in London’s urban forest around 20% of the land area is covered by trees.

Today I learnt about TreeTalk which has an amazing tree map of London. It has identified over 600 different species of tree in public spaces, but it doesn’t include garden trees.  You can zoom in and click on individual trees to identify them and find out more about them.

As if that wasn’t interesting enough, the site will create a tree walk for you from your home. I checked for my postcode and sadly Kingston has not yet engaged with the project so it has not logged the trees opposite my house. But it did point me to 13 different species within a ten minute walk, all of them on the main road managed by Transport for London.

Ideally you should be following a tree walk on an app on a phone, but it seems the app has been overwhelmed after some coverage in the media. However, the tree walks still work on a mobile using the website.

The team behind TreeTalk want to start mapping trees in other cities in the UK and internationally, but clearly that will take a long time.

One of the creators behind the scheme is Paul Wood – a wonderful example of nominative determinism – who is the author of: London is a Forest. Another is Steve Pocock who is Campaign Co-ordinator for London National Park City. I didn’t know that last July London became the world’s first National Park City, supported by a team of 54 volunteer park rangers.

I am looking forward to the time when I can embark on a tree walk. Although I have been out of the house for the first time this week, we are still quite reluctant to do so. However, today we managed to order some medical masks from Boots, which will increase our confidence.



Please note

We have been in full self-isolation since 16th March to protect my husband whose immune system is compromised.

If you are in self-isolation then join the Lib Dems in self-isolation Facebook group.

You can find my previous Isolation diaries here.


* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • How much were the masks if I may ask?

  • Angela Davies 7th Jun '20 - 12:23pm

    Horse Chestnut trees strike a very sentimental cord with me. On our family farm in Ireland near the old farm house we had a huge Horse Chestnut tree. It must have been a hundred years old, perhaps more. All the young people in the neighbourhood met there in the evenings, generation after generation. A great storm took it down a few years ago.
    We were heartbroken! My sister hit upon a great idea. She took part of the tree and got a local man to make salad bowls from it. One for each of us. She presented me with one last year for my 80th Birthday. I treasure it and the memories it evokes.

  • Barry Fleet 7th Jun '20 - 1:56pm

    For further information, I can recommend Paul Wood’s ‘London’s Street Trees – A field guide to the urban forest’ , an excellent guide to the trees that can be planted in any urban situation, not just in London.
    It also includes some ‘ tree trails’, i.e. guided walks.

  • David Garlick 7th Jun '20 - 2:42pm

    Lovely outlook and one that is being neglected here in Northampton.
    The local Borough Council claims that it doesn’t have the money to replace street trees and even if money is found to replace them they are reluctant to allow that to happen because of ‘future maintenance’ costs.
    Given that trees are a huge part of the UK’s final push to net zero, (they will take years to mature and be at their prime after all the other easier and quicker wins) how can we get ‘future maintenance’ covered? My suggestion is that government could create thousands of jobs to do just that in a new green economy to build a better future for us all.

  • @Manfarang – Boots are selling medical masks at £35 for 50, or £105 for 200. Expensive but we need to be careful.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 7th Jun '20 - 3:00pm

    Absolutely fascinating. I am lucky enough to have 5 areas of woodland within easy walking distance of my house and they do really spark joy – particularly what is left of the Old Wood next to the reservoir across the road.

  • @David Garlick – in Kingston we encourage residents to adopt a tree outside their house. Although the ones in my photo do need expert maintenance.

  • Graham Evans 7th Jun '20 - 11:25pm

    Large stretches of Epping Forest are within the GLA area so this may rather distort the extent of tree coverage across London.

  • David Garlick 8th Jun '20 - 3:08pm

    Mary. This is happening to the extent of watering and day to day care but sadly for the Council this is not enough.

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