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The Voice - July 2020

Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

It is hoped that this issue of The Voice will make more people aware of the loss of tree coverage in London, as well as further afield.

The UK is approximately 600 miles in length whereas Brazil is larger but by comparison, the UK is losing as much tree cover as the Amazon.

Action will have to be taken soon. Some are making a valiant effort to replant trees but not enough has yet been achieved. Cutting down mature and veteran trees and replacing them with saplings is not the solution.

If you value having someone campaign on your behalf to protect the environment and having access to useful articles about gardening and local environmental matters, please make a donation to help us with the cost of maintaining The East London Garden Society.

Legal Rights for Ancient Trees

Felled trees

Stop this from happening.

Please sign this Petition to give all ancient trees (over 100 years of age) the legal right not to be damaged or felled.

The exception is for sustainable forestry to produce wood and maintaining the tree’s health.

This would effectively make tree preservation orders (TPOs) national.

Too Many Trees Being Felled

Ancient Woodland

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty

Britain’s beloved street trees are being felled at a rate of nearly sixty a day. Council chainsaw gangs are stripping the nation’s leafy suburbs of their Victorian and Edwardian boughs to save money.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that more than 150,000 trees have been removed from urban highways since 2010 at a cost of £16m and tens of thousands have not been replaced.

The news comes after campaigners in Birmingham lost a hard-fought fight last month to save the city’s oldest tree, aged at least 90-years-old, which is just one of 9,200 trees felled in the city in the past seven years.

Residents in Sheffield, where more than 4,600 roadside trees have been cut down since 2010, have also faced arrest in a bitter feud about felling in Britain’s greenest city. Councils say they take their responsibilities for trees seriously and many insist they are replacing every street tree that is cut down. They have planted more than 500,000 trees in parks and woodlands in the same period.

But environmental charities and pressure groups say the figures highlight how suburbs are slowly being denuded of mature trees, which are more expensive to maintain but are proven to ease traffic pollution and improve people’s mental health.

Joseph Coles, from the Woodland Trust, said, “These figures provide damning evidence that councils across the country are not directly replacing the street trees they remove. There is vast evidence of the benefits that trees provide in urban areas, such as shading in the summer and reducing the impact of air pollution.

While we recognise the replanting in woods and nature reserves, it does not sufficiently compensate the losses in urban areas. This is sadly replicated in the day-to-day complaints we receive from the public and something we are working with local authorities to urgently address.”

Friends of the Earth senior nature campaigner, Paul de Zylva, said, “Well located and maintained trees improve our streets, cool our cities and help clean our air. It’s absurd that street trees can be removed in minutes but replacing them can take ages. It doesn’t help that nonsense is being spread about street trees and that many councils are losing expert tree officers.”

The figures obtained by sending Freedom of Information requests to councils across the country, show that at least 150,600 trees have been felled since April 2010, an average of fifty-eight trees everyday day.

More than 280 of those felled were protected by tree preservation orders and 250 were classed as “veteran trees”, regarded as being exceptional because of their great age or size or their cultural or conservation value.

Councils said they had replaced just over 113,000 during the same period. More than 47,000 trees have been felled in London boroughs and 43,000 replaced.

Not all councils had data on why trees were felled, but where figures were available, 81.6% were cut down after being classed as dead, diseased or dying, and 8.9% because they were causing structural damage.

Nearly one in ten (9.4%) were cut down for other reasons, with some officials providing unexpected responses in addition to the felling of trees because of storm damage, insurance claims and after they had been hit by buses, cars and delivery vans.

Trees were also axed because they were the wrong specimens, to make way for housing developments and off-street parking, because of landscape improvements or because of overcrowding, shading or soil erosion.

One council said it had removed trees because they were obstructing streetlamps, while others said they had removed trees because of nuisance fruit fall or because trees had a poor aesthetic crown shape.

Another council said it had removed trees for health and safety reasons and another because of councillor pressure. Several said they had removed trees because of malicious damage or vandalism, while one admitted it had felled a number of trees in error.

Professor Ian Rotherham, a reader in environmental geography at Sheffield Hallam University and a former director of the city’s Ecological Advisory Service, said where the work is carried out by council departments, it is likely to be part of long-term and necessary programmes of replacement.

But he added: “Where the service is privatised, then it is likely that it is part of a short-term, slash-and-burn policy, convenience and cost-saving, not longer-term sustainability.”

He said many of the trees felled will be mature Victorian or Edwardian trees, which are in their prime and could live for up to 250 years.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said, “This Government’s savage cuts to local council budgets are bringing an end to Britain’s traditional, tree-lined streets. Trees in our towns and cities improve people’s quality of life and create vital habitats for wildlife. We must invest to protect these historic trees for future generations.”

The Department for Transport says the management of street trees is the responsibility of local highway authorities and it is for them to decide, based on local needs and priorities.

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said, “Trees and woodlands are an important feature of our landscape and councils are doing everything they can to protect them. Local authorities, who have a statutory powers to protect some trees, take their responsibilities very seriously, working in partnership with residents’ groups, charities and national agencies to make limited resources go further.”

From an article by Dean Kirby (

Elderberry Tree

Elderberry tree

Mainly used for medicinal purposes the Elderberry was used by Hippocrates for curing various illnesses. Hippocrates is often referred to as the "Father of Medicine" in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field as the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine. His days of healing started as early as 400 AD.

In those days only natural ingredients served as medicine. It was also popular with Native American tribes, as well as many people in Northern Africa, Asia and through Europe. Elder was often called the medicine chest of the country folk. The word Elder is derived from ellar or kindler because when the tubes from the branches formed, they were used as pipes for kindling fires.

The botanical name for the Elder, Sambucus, is from the Greek word Sambuca, which means wind instrument. There was a pan pipe called the Sambuke, which was a musical instrument loved by the Romans and Greeks. Some Native Americans tribes also used elderberry branches to make flutes, and the tree was sometimes called “the tree of music.”

Elderberry has been said to treat over seventy different types of illnesses. It was used to treat burns and fever and was even used as a treatment during the plague.

The virus that triggers COVID-19 is not the same as that which causes the common cold or flu, yet many of the symptoms are similar. An upper respiratory tract infection causing irritation and swelling with coughing.

Many of these respiratory conditions cause a viral attack on lung tissue but each virus uses a different pathway causing varying degrees of severity. There are documents dating back to 2000 BC in Switzerland which show that folklore related to elder trees is extensive and varies according to region.

In some traditions, the elder tree is thought to ward off evil and give protection from witches, while other beliefs say that witches often congregate under the plant, especially when it is full of fruit. If an elder tree was cut down, a spirit known as the Elder Mother would be released and take her revenge. The tree could only safely be cut while chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother.

Made from the branch of an elder tree, the Elder Wand plays a pivotal role in the final book of the Harry Potter series, which was nearly named Harry Potter and the Elder Wand before author J. K. Rowling decided on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Researchers have found that elderberries directly inhibit the ability of flu viruses to enter cells and replicate. In one study, scientists examined the exact mechanism using commercially cultivated elderberry.

Researchers from the University of Sydney were surprised to find that elderberry juice effectively inhibited replication of flu viruses after the cells had been infected. This is significant, since blocking the virus at different stages increases the potential for an intervention to help prevent infection.

Anthocyanidin compounds, which are phytonutrients responsible for the fruit’s intense colour, were credited with reducing viral activity. The results of this study supported past research in which adults suffering flu-like symptoms took elderberry syrup and experienced a faster recovery.

Research on treatments for COVID-19 were started using those interventions previously used with SARS, MERS and/or influenza. In a recent paper, scholars called for the testing of elderberry supplements against COVID-19 as it has been effective in cold and influenza by randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study and meta-analysis.

In one investigation, researchers studied people travelling in airplanes as a test for the effect that elderberries may have on infection rates and the severity of the common cold. The clinical trial involved 312 economy-class travellers embarking on an international flight from Australia.

Data was collected on the frequency of colds, duration and symptoms, and it was found there was statistically no significant difference in infection rate between individuals taking elderberry syrup and those who didn't. However, participants who did not take elderberry had a significantly longer duration of the cold and severity of symptoms.

The COVID-19 virus is a member of the same coronavirus family. Researchers found that an ethanol extract of Sambucus Formosana Nakai potentially had a strong reaction against the condition.

Dr Irina Todorov, an integrative medical physician, was quoted in the Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials whilst talking about elderberry syrup. She said:

"If you have acid reflux, you drink chamomile tea. If you have abdominal bloating, you drink ginger or peppermint tea. One approach is to use specific products that have been studied in clinical research with positive effect.

Although some studies indicate that elderberry extract may relieve cold and flu symptoms, more research on a large scale is needed to support these findings. Meanwhile, I will continue to enjoy herbal tea made from elderflower and jam from elderberry as part of my diet.”

One of the reasons elderberries may have so many health benefits is that they are packed with nutrients. Fresh elderberries have about 36 mg of vitamin C for every 100 grams of fruit, although oranges have about 15 grams more per 96 gram serving. The little purple power-packed fruit also has less sugar.

Loss of Green Field Sites

Shandy Park development

A private development in Shandy Park, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Most brownfield sites in London are sold for private development since there is a priority for housing. But now green urban land owned by a local authority is in jeopardy for social housing.

With the lack of brownfield sites being made more prominent, private developers are turning to green field sites. As one Mayor in East London said, "They are only cutting down twenty-two trees. You would think it was 1,000, with all the fuss,".

There is never a replacement for nature that is eradicated. There is an assumption that fifty-eight mature trees are felled each day in urban areas within the UK. In some areas where the need for development is greatest. more are felled.

Protected tree orders are no use against progress. The provision of saplings with a high mortality rate are in no way are a substitute for the loss of the environment ecology. There is an ever-increasing demand within urban areas to destroy the landscape, but we must understand that once the landscape is lost forever, people will be living in an unnatural urban town or city. Where will the building then occur?

Working with the environment local ecology must surely be the way forward before the loss becomes catastrophic. Previous philanthropists thought that having green space in our towns and cities could be a respite for the population, and this was without the knowledge we have now.

National Nature Service Needed

Flower meadow Hever castle

Flower meadows at Hever Castle in Kent (Photograph by Gareth Fuller/PA)

The chancellor, Rishi Sunak, must “seize the day” and create a national nature service to restore wildlife and habitats in England, say a coalition of the country’s biggest green groups. It said the move would create thousands of jobs, a more resilient country and tackle the wildlife and climate crises.

The coalition has drawn up a list of 330 projects that are ready to go, including flower meadows, “tiny forests” in cities and hillside schemes to cut flooding. It said a service to fund the projects and train workers would create 10,000 jobs and be part of a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“A new national nature service could restore our land, coastlines, oceans and economy for a greener, more prosperous future,” the coalition said in the letter to Sunak. “In doing so, we will create a more prosperous and resilient society and train up a new workforce to power a green, modern economy.”

“From you, we need a well-funded training and employment programme, investment in a co-designed portfolio of conservation projects to kickstart green recovery, and the bravery to seize the day,” said the coalition of 50 groups.

It includes National Parks England, RSPB, The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, WWF, Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, representing millions of members. Others include the Black Environment Network, councils in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, the National Youth Agency and the Nature-Friendly Farming Network.

Sunak is reported to be planning a “green industrial revolution”, with a possible announcement in July. Environment groups, however, fear plans to spend billions on energy and transport infrastructure are overshadowing the role that restoring nature can also play in the post-pandemic recovery. In March, Sunak pledged £640m for a “nature for climate fund” to support tree planting and peatland restoration, which was a Conservative manifesto commitment in the December general election.

From an article by Damian Carrington, Environment editor for The Guardian

Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Mint Wine

Make use of your Covid-19 lockdown period by making this Mint wine.


Mint wine


Finally ...

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