Friends and families gather to plant saplings as part of National Tree Week

The tree planting team. From left to right: Graham Mitchell, Eilidh Pollard (Treasurer) and Caitlin Pollard, Andrea Perry (Chair), Georgina Quashie and Karen Barnett (Founder) Pic: Erin Cavoto

A neighbourhood park in Thornton Heath benefited from dozens of newly planted trees this weekend as part of a citywide initiative to add thousands of saplings throughout London to become the first “national park city”.

As part of the initiative, the Mayor of London gave 80,000 trees to the city. Grangewood Park, a Victorian park in Thornton Heath, was allotted 50 saplings to plant.

The Friends of Grangewood Park group welcomed volunteers of all ages to take part in the tree planting. Many people brought their young children, teaching them how to use a spade and how to dig deep enough to plant the sapling’s roots.

The trees were sowed throughout London over the weekend to finish off National Tree Week.

Saplings to be planted Pic: Erin Cavoto

Andrea Perry, editor of the Thornton Heath Chronicle and chair of Friends of Grangewood Park, said: “It’s such a lovely park. It’s quite neglected. Croydon has 127 parks and green spaces so not all of them are maintained to high standard. It’s great that we were able to secure these 50 trees.” 

Perry said: “In terms of air quality, Grangewood Park is the only green space in the Thornton Heath ward. Obviously, these spaces are important in tackling pollution. Parks are so important to people’s health and well-being.” 

Graham Mitchell, chair of Thornton Heath Community Action Team, also volunteered his time to the park. When asked about the impact of these new trees for the park, he said: “Grangewood Park is on a busy main road. Most roads in Thornton Heath have a 20mph speed limit which isn’t good for air pollution. We’ve got to counter that.” 

A few years ago, a study from the Office of National Statistics showed that trees in Croydon removed pollutants in 2015 at a rate half of the country’s average. Many harmful air pollutants come from vehicle emissions, including PM2.5 and NO2. 

Grangewood Park was one of the many parks to receive a new batch of tree saplings this past weekend as part of the citywide “plant-a-thon.”

Perry said: “It’s great with things like this when so many little kids turn up and get involved in planting. They’ll see [these trees grow] because we’ll be long gone by then. They’ll become the next friends, the next guardians of the park.” 

Grangewood Park Pic: Erin Cavoto

Gee Burch, a 46-year-old construction worker who grew up near the park spent the morning planting saplings with his wife, Chariya Vichit. It wasn’t hard for Burch to decide which saplings to plant as he went with his namesake, the birch tree.  

Burch said: “Every little bit helps. I think people have become more aware of conservation. If a million people put away one piece of plastic, that’s a million pieces of plastic.” 

Burch recalled the hours he spent as a child in the park, especially learning how to ride a bike. 

Burch continued: “Croydon has always been a very green area. There’s no shortage of greenery. I was fortunate that I grew up around here. We’re pretty lucky.” 

Saplings having been planted. Pic: Erin Cavoto

The “plant-a-thon” included 30 volunteer events throughout the city, including Beckenham Place Park in Lewisham, the East and West Bank Nature Reserve in Hackney and Meath Gardens in Tower Hamlets. 

Londoners were also able to apply for up to two trees of their own to plant on their private property.

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