News
Orchid found

A surprise discovery on the Nature Trail Walk on Tuesday the 8th was a flowering orchid, the first that anyone can recall on Streatham Common. It was identified as a Broad-leaved Helleborine.

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Display of competition entries at Streatham Library

Earlier in the year, we held a competition for local primary schools to redesign the Rookery Centenary flowerbed, the circular raised bed near the main entrance to the Rookery. We received over 40 entries from children at Crown Lane, Woodmansterne, Sunnyhill, and Hitherfield Primary Schools.

We are delighted to say that a display featuring the winning entry and the runners-up is now up at Streatham Library in the room adjacent to the Children’s Library. Make sure you take a look next time you are visiting the library!

We have commissioned Kernock Park Plants to create the carpet bedding display based and they are currently growing over 900 plants for it. The bed will be installed in late August. In the meantime, we are sorry that the Centenary bed is not looking its best but we are confident that it will be worth the wait!

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the participants for their inspirational entries – it was great to see the Rookery through your eyes.

New Heritage Trail on display this Sunday

Have you ever wondered what The Rookery was like before it was a public garden, where the old Rookery house used to stand, or which plants in the Rookery come from South America? Now is your chance to find out!

This Sunday, as part of Open Garden Squares, we will be running a Heritage Trail around the garden. The trail has been created the Rookery Garden Volunteers and offers a glimpse in to the Rookery’s fascinating history and horticultural heritage.

You could be in with the chance of winning £50 worth of plants inspired by The Rookery if you manage to answer all ten questions correctly! Come to the Rookery between 10am-5pm this Sunday and ask for Quiz Sheet at the gazebo by the main entrance.

We hope to see you there!

From all the Rookery Garden Volunteers

Sundial returns

A brand new sundial is in place in the Rookery Gardens, although you won’t be able to examine it up close until the Heritage Lottery funded work on relaying the surrounding crazy paving has been completed. The new sundial is 100% brass. This makes it much less liable to suffer from vandalism than the previous slate sundial but much more likely to be stolen, which was the fate of the previous brass sundial! Next time steel, perhaps?

Delightful delphiniums win the day!

The Friends hosted a stall at the community fete at the newly re-opened Streatham Library on Saturday. It was a great event – the hall was packed all day with local people collecting information from community organisations, indulging in the fantastic offering of cake from the W.I., and generally enjoying the buzz. We got the chance to talk to people about our work on the Common and in particular our plans to re-design and re-plant the White Garden.

We offered passersby the opportunity to choose a plant for the new White Garden from a list of four choices. The contenders were: Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’, Delphinium ‘Galahad White’, Lamprocapnos spectabilis ‘Alba’ and Cynara cardunculus. We received 98 votes in total and we’re delighted to say that Delphiniums won the day!

These stately white-flowered perennials will be making an appearance in the new planting scheme, to be planted later in 2014.

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Delphinium ‘Galahad White’ 

New Trees on the Common

During February and March, over 700 new trees and shrubs were planted on the Common, mostly adjacent to Streatham Common North. You may not have noticed them because they are just whips – very young trees that are less than a metre tall – but in years to come they should grow into fine copses of native species, although the eventual density and height of the trees have yet to be decided.

The trees have come to the Common as part of a demonstration project of what is called biodiversity offsetting, a relatively new and rather controversial scheme (* see below for some background). In this case, the trees are being planted largely to offset (make up for) the loss of about two acres of disused railway sidings at Thameslink’s Selhurst depot. The land has been colonised by scrub, grass and silver birch trees for some years but has now become part of a new train storage facility. The new trees on the Common have been planted by the London Wildlife Trust (LWT) and its volunteers and LWT will be looking after the trees for the next three years. The scheme is funded by Network Rail, which is responsible for most of the UK’s rail infrastructure. Brockwell Park will also be a future beneficiary. Planting had the approval of both Lambeth Council and the Friends.

All of the new trees are native species relevant to the locality. They include hawthorn, field maple, guelder-rose, hazel, rowan and silver birch, which have been planted in mixed clusters of at least 100 whips. Between them, these species will provide wildlife habitat, shelter and food sources that are otherwise rather scare on the Common, which is currently dominated by oak trees. 

The project launch was attended by Environment Secretary Owen Patterson, whose department announced proposals for biodiversity offsetting in 2011 and instigated some pilot studies to test them*. He spoke briefly on how biodiversity offsetting could provide a net gain for both nature and business and then proceeded to plant a tree whip or two near the car park. Proper planting started in early February opposite the junction of Leigham Court Road and Streatham Common North and subsequently continued down the latter, with substantial plantings on either side of the paddling pool, opposite the junction with Valley Road and opposite the memorial garden. Planting for the spring finished on March 7th with a cluster of trees opposite the builder’s yard on Streatham Common South. 

In addition some bramble clearance has been carried out with a view to further planting next autumn, when some work in the woodlands is also being planned. The Friends hope to round up some volunteers to assist with some of the autumn work.

The new planting has generated a certain amount of local friction. Part of this was because the initial planting was not altogether according to plan although this has now been remedied. Some of the press releases from the various partners involved also created difficulties. Statements in one that 10,000 trees would be planted – a gross exaggeration – and that a part of the ancient Great North Wood would be created – which was pure ‘spin’ – led to unnecessary concerns that the whole of the lower Common would be turned into woodland.

Peter Newmark

*BACKGROUND

The biodiversity offsetting scheme, recently formulated by DEFRA (the government’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs) is intended to be “a measurable way to ensure we make good the residual damage to nature caused by development which cannot be avoided or mitigated” and a way to overcome what it calls the “expensive and inefficient planning processes that delay or block the housing and infrastructure our economy needs to grow”. However it has been criticised by some as being based on simplistic measures and false premises.

In order to calculate how to offset the damage to the environment caused when a green space is turned into a building site, DEFRA has come up with a metric that is intended to measure the value of what is lost and therefore what needs to do done to offset it. Six pilot projects to test the scheme were started two years ago and the results are due in June. The project on Streatham Common is part of an additional pilot, which will test, among other things, how possible it is to find sufficient sites for offsetting within a city. 

Critics of the biodiversity offsetting scheme claim that the metric used is both superficial and simplistic. A major criticism is that it takes no account of the deep ecological and cultural value of what it being lost. For example, can one really offset the destruction of a much-loved and ancient woodland by planting twice as many trees on a virgin site? DEFRA even goes so far as to claim that some of the offsetting aims to be not just an equal replacement for what is lost but a net gain. Indeed Owen Patterson claimed this for the planting on Streatham Common. In our case, at least the land that it being lost is not in the category of ancient woodland. Nevertheless, it is a loss of an area of some ecological value. The question is whether the planting of hundreds of trees on the existing green space of Streatham Common more than makes up – or even makes up – for the loss of green space elsewhere. 

A further point made by critics is the lack of guarantee of the sustained future of any results of offsetting. In our case this equates to whether Lambeth Council (or more likely the cooperative that is planning to take over the running of Streatham Common) will have the ability to nurture so many young trees once LWT hands them over in three years time. Finally there is a general concern that DEFRA’s biodiversity offsetting may be introduced as a voluntary scheme rather than being mandatory. 

These points and many others have been made in submissions during the period of public consultation on the proposals last year. DEFRA’s response is due sometime in the summer.

It is to their credit that Network Rail / Thameslink have voluntarily participated and it was because of their desire that the offsetting was carried out relatively close to the area of loss and in the vicinity of Thameslink stations that Streatham Common has become a beneficiary of this particular scheme. LWT are aware of the sensitivities over the scheme and will be working with the Friends and other stakeholders on the Common to ensure that the offsetting provides both ecological and social benefits to the site as well as a better understanding of how offsetting might be effectively implemented within an urban context.

Flowerbed design competition: Winner announced!

We’re delighted to announce that the winners of the Rookery Centenary Flowerbed Design Competition are the Eco-warriors from Sunnyhill Primary School. The Eco-warrriors are a group of 10 children from across different year groups who have shown a particular enthusiasm for environmental issues.  (more…)

The research begins!

A group of volunteers met at Lambeth Archives last Friday to begin researching the history of the Rookery and in particular the White Garden.  We looked at a variety of sources including newspaper clippings, photographs, and local society publications.

We found a stunning image of the white garden on the Lambeth Landmark website from around c. 1910. However as volunteer Rachel put it at the end of the session, “As far as I understand things, we still don’t know when the White Garden was actually created, for whom and by whom.”

Was the White Garden created during the Victorian era? Was it created for a wedding? Who was the lucky bride? These are just some of the questions we are going to explore next…

If you are interested in getting involved, then please get in contact with Charlotte at Rookery100@streathamcommon.org

Garden Design Group Schedule

Over the coming months, a voluntary garden design group will be helping to create new planting plans for the White Garden as well as other areas of the Rookery. They will be participating in research trips to RHS Lindley Library and Sissinghurst as well consulting with the lead garden designer about the planting plans.

Here are some of the activities which they will be in involved in:

Fri 14th March – Planning meeting

Tues 25th March – Visit to RHS Lindley Library

Sat 19th April – Survey of current planting

Fri 9th May – Trip to Sissinghurst

If you are interested in joining the group or learning more about the design plans, then please contact Charlotte at Rookery100@streathamcommon.org

 

 

Fruit Trees Planted

Nine apple and three pear trees were planted by volunteers in the Rookery Orchard on February 23rd. Each tree is a different, carefully- selected variety. The varieties  include comice pear and bramley apple. They replace five dead or dying trees that have been removed.