Just down the line, in Bowes Park, people are clubbing together to line their high street with shade-creating and pollution-absorbing trees. They're taking advantage of a government-sponsored scheme. Could we do the same?
Last week I learned, thanks to a news item on the Bowes & Bounds Connected website, about a tree sponsorship scheme just the other side of the Enfield/Haringey borough boundary. It involves residents and businesses, Haringey Council, the volunteering organisation GoodGym and a national charity that receives funding from the government and a charitable trust.
To quote from the Trees for Streets website:
Haringey’s residents have leapt at the chance help re-green their local streets, and have thrown their support behind our national charity Street Tree Sponsorship Scheme. Over the past 12 months we’ve had more than 300 sponsorship requests from all across this north London borough. 134 of these were planted this last winter/spring, with planting restarting again this coming November. New requests keep coming in almost daily.
Back in the summer of 2021 Haringey Council became one of the first UK councils to partner with Trees for Streets, to encourage their local residents, communities and businesses to contribute to the cost of tree planting across the borough. This scheme is a project from national urban tree charity Trees for Cities, funded by DEFRA’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, and City Bridge Trust.
The Bowes & Bounds item was specifically inviting people to contribute towards the cost of buying, planting and maintaining 20 trees on the stretch of Myddleton Road nearest to Bowes Park station. The scheme is being coordinated by the group We Love Myddleton Road, who need to raise £250 per tree, when the average actual cost per tree is £837.
This is the part of Myddleton Road that was once a thriving local high street where locals could do most of their shopping, but by the end of the 20th century was in a serious state of decline. However, since then the attempts of landlords to wring money out of properties by turning the shops into houses in multiple occupation have been encountering some stiff resistance from We Love Myddleton Road and from some local traders.
A variety of new shops and cafes have been springing up on Myddleton Road, including the aptly named Renaissance, which combines the sale of pianos to customers around the globe with selling coffee and cakes to local people. The Bohem Taproom is going strong, dispensing genuine Czech-style beers brewed in north London (originally in Bowes Park itself, nowadays at larger premises in Tottenham). And recently local people were successful in bidding to buy the building that previously housed a popular cafe/pub, the Step, which will be reopening as a community asset.
Those are just three of the many interesting shops and restaurants on this stretch of Myddleton Road - to find out about the others, a visit is recommended (it's a two-minute journey by train from Palmers Green).
But to get back to the subject of street trees. They have multiple benefits, especially at the present time when we face the threats of dangerously hot weather caused by climate change and loss of biodiversity. The shade they provide can significantly reduce heat stress on people, animals, plants and buildings. They (alas, only partially) cleanse the air of dangerous pollutants from car engines and tyres. They have a soothing psychological effect, where bare concrete and asphalt create a stressful environment. They slow down the rate at which rainwater reaches pavements, roads and drains, reducing flooding. They play a vital role in the urban ecosystem, by helping to support a great variety of wildlife which people can enjoy close to home. Last but not least, they absorb and store carbon from greenhouse gases in the air, helping reduce climate change.
So it would be great if Enfield Council could follow the example of our neighbouring borough to the south and set up a similar arrangement with Trees for Streets, bringing together the power of a national organisation, a local council and individual sponsors.