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Following remarkable discoveries by arboriculturalist Ken Scarlett, the Woodland Trust is to help map the Ancient and Veteran Trees at Southwark Woods.
Across the cemeteries known as Southwark Woods, Ken has recorded oak trees of up to 5m in girth - well over 300 years old and potentially much older.
The Woodland Trust has stated it would oppose any development that removes, damages or impacts negatively on any such trees. This week the Trust will visit and verify Ken's recordings, to add to the UK map of Ancient and Veteran Trees.
There are at least 7 ancient oaks annd 8 verteran hawthorns at Camberwell Old Cemetery alone, as well as a native pear with twin stems 2 metres in girth each.
Three weeks ago, without informing the Cemetery Stakeholder Group or Camberwell Cemeteries Friends Groups, Southwark council applied to the Diocese of Southwark for permission to develop these woodlands.
Apparently however, the council did not inform the Diocese that the Old Cemetery is a protected Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, nor that the area in the New Cemetery is virgin native woodland bordering One Tree Hill Nature Reserve, a remnant of the Great North Wood.
One Tree Hill is common land that the neighbouring golf course tried to incorporate at the turn of the 20th century. Enduring truly deadly battles, the community revolted and saved it.
Southwark Woods certainly has many very old trees and was possibly once woodland pasture for livestock within a day's drove of both old London and Croydon cattle markets.
The Ancient Tree Forum are also investigating, and Robert MacFarlane, the renowned wild nature writer, author of The Wild Places and Landmarks, has said he will do everything he can to help save Southwark Woods, contacting Natural England and other authorities.
Camberwell Old Cemetery has never been investigated for the status of its trees, perhaps because the land was stolen from the commons by Friern Manor Farm, eventually to be sold to the Parish of St Giles Camberwell in 1850.
Even more reason to protect these incredible woodlands. Already, Southwark’s chainsaws have very recently – and possibly illegally – lopped large branches off one of the oldest oaks in so-called 'Area Z' in the Grade 1 SINC woodland. SSW has reported their actions to the Woodland Trust and the Forestry Commission.
One can’t help wondering if the power and the beauty of these incredible woodlands are in part due to the fact that trees thriving in them today date back to the time of the first Queen Elizabeth, and possibly beyond.
The Mayor of London is known to be particularly keen on London’s history and ‘places of delight’. These cemeteries have both in spades. Southwark had better take care – or Boris himself might come down to defend the trees.
Woodland Trust to help map Ancient and Veteran Trees at Southwark Woods
27th July 2015
One of the great Southwark Woods oaks at so-called 'Area Z' - Grade 1 SINC woodland at Camberwell Old Cemetery. The photo shows evidence that at least two large branches have recently been cut, on the left. This is being referred to the Woodland Trust and authorities.
Ken Scarlett, arboriculturalist and Director of Adverdant, measuring trees at the cemeteries for their age and status as part of investigations into whether these are Ancient Woodlands, or even remnants of the Great North Wood
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