Ten beech trees planted in Crabtree Fields this autumn

Beech stems.

A newly planted beech tree grows out of the existing hedge at Crabtree Fields.

The Friends group have planted ten beech trees at Crabtree Fields public open space, to restore the hedge that surrounds the eastern border of the park. The beech saplings, which are about five years old, were all planted by volunteers in November. They were bought from a nursery in Kent and paid for by a local, anonymous donor.

Over the years the beech hedge has been a distinctive characteristic of the much loved little park. But some of the beech trees that make up the original hedge have died. The prolonged drought in 2018 meant several trees had to be removed leaving gaps in the hedge.

Common beech (Fagus sylvatica) is native to southern England and makes a good hedging plant. “If clipped it doesn’t shed its leaves, and creates a year-round dense screen, which provides a great habitat for garden birds,” says the Woodland Trust.

Dead wood and fallen leaves are not thrown away. Instead the Friends group have created dead wood areas and leaf piles in out-of-the-way parts of the park to encourage insects and food for wildlife. We don’t use leaf blowers but sweep or rake the leaves into piles.

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Please keep away from fenced-off area in Crabtree Fields until repair is complete

Pergola hazard tape area.

Visitors to Crabtree Fields public open space are advised to keep away from the fenced off area under the pergola until repairs and urgent maintenance is completed. The area affected has been marked off with hazard tape.

The Friends group have completed a small repair and put the hazard tape up to make the area safe. Camden’s parks department have been notified and will complete the repair in due course.

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Fungi pop up in Crabtree Fields

Fungi growing.

Quite a lot of fungi has emerged out of the ground in Crabtree Fields this week after all the rain. The visible part of fungi is the mushroom or toadstool and is the fruit of the underlying mycelium, a system of fine threads that stretches out beneath the mushroom in search of water and food. Fungi breakdown dead wood and leaves and recycle nutrients back into the soil, which helps plants to grow and thrive. Please don’t touch the fungi, let it grow. We don’t know what type it is and it may be poisonous.

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Repairs and maintenance at Crabtree Fields this autumn and winter

broken-pergola-section

The Friends group have asked Camden parks’ department to make a repair to the pergola at Crabtree Fields after a section of timber broke on Friday 11 October. The Friends group fenced off the area under the pergola and alerted Camden to carry out an urgent repair.

The Friends have identified further repairs where sections of timber supporting the wisteria, ivy and kiwi vines are rotten. We will try to arrange for these sections to be repaired without damaging the greenery it supports, which is a much needed and well-loved feature of the public open space.

In November the Friends group will be filling the gaps in the beech hedge by planting new trees to restore the hedge to its formal shape and improve the habitat for wildlife. Several of the beech plants have died and need replacing. This work is being done thanks to a generous donation from someone who works in Fitzrovia, is a frequent visitor to the park and who is paying for the new beech plants.

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This is why park hedges should not be cut in the spring and summer months

Juvenile blackbird on hedge.

A young blackbird sits on a hedge in Crabtree Fields public open space.

Farmers are not allowed to cut hedges between 1 March and 31 August to protect the habitat of nesting birds. The same guidance should be applied to public parks in our cities, yet all too often it is ignored.

Using machinery such as hedge trimmers and leaf blowers can disrupt the habitat, disturbing nests. Birds that have left the nest but are too young to fly can be separated from their parents who still help them to feed. While juvenile they can hop around and find food and still retreat to the safety of the hedge when danger threatens.

This young blackbird has left its nest but cannot yet fend for itself. If a small army of maintenance workers turn up and start cutting the hedge and blowing cuttings around it will likely take fright and become separated from its parents and could starve and die.

So please Camden Council, give our wildlife the chance to live. Cut the hedges in the autumn and winter months just like farmers are supposed to do.

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Red campion flowers in a Whitfield Street tree pit

Red campion (Silene dioica) can flower all year round and is an important plant for flying insects.

This native British wildflower, Red campion (Silene dioica), is flowering in a tree pit in Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia.

This flower is one of a number of important pollinators and although not often seen on the streets of London is quite a common plant seen in woodlands and on roadside verges.

The flowers have grown from seed planted by the Friends group.

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Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) blossoms in Crabtree Fields

Blackthorn blossom.

Blossom on a blackthorn tree in Crabtree Fields.

The first of our small blackthorn trees is blossoming in Crabtree Fields, adding to the variety of plants to support wildlife.

Blackthorn, also known as sloe, is a small deciduous tree native to the UK and most of Europe. Because it is early flowering it provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees.

“Its foliage is a food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the lackey, magpie, common emerald, small eggar, swallow-tailed and yellow-tailed. It is also used by the black and brown hairstreak butterflies,” says the Woodland Trust.

The Friends group have this winter planted a number of native deciduous and everygreen trees and shrubs, adding to the beauty and biodiversity of Crabtree Fields.

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