Bromley's ancient trees given new lease of life

One of the ancient and much loved Oak trees in Forest Way, Petts Wood.

The trees in Forest Way are over 500 years old.

The Air Spade in use.

Left to right: Councillor John Ince, Paul Smith - Plant health care technician and Councillor Harry Stranger.

First published in Bromley
Last updated
News Shopper: Photograph of the Author by , deputy news editor

FOUR of the borough's oldest and most loved trees have been closely monitored by Bromley Council over the last few years, and the prognosis has not been good.

That is why three treasured Oak trees in Forest Way, Petts Wood, thought to be more than five centuries old, and a 150-year-old Oak in Hayes Library Gardens - recently underwent crucial life-saving maintenance work.

Without the treatment these giant beasts would have lived a mere five or 10 years, but now they can expect to survive for at least 80.

The trees in Forest Way have a special resonance with the people of Petts Wood who nicknamed them 'the Apostles' - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

Sadly one of them was removed in the 1970s - reportedly to build a new road.

Since then the three remaining trees have faced the threat of soil compaction which can weaken the root systems, initiating the beginning of decline or dieback.

To prevent this from happening, the surrounding soil has now been decompacted using an Air Spade, blasting compressed air into the ground and breaking up the soil.

Bromley arboricultural expert Tom Roser said: "The majority of the tree roots are within the first metre in depth so the purpose of the air spading work is to break up hard compacted ground and improve the soil structure.

"This allows the tree's fibrous roots to work thought the soil with ease, enabling the tree to absorb water and nutrients at a greater rate, giving a noticeable affect on the health of the tree.

"This will give the trees a new lease of life and the next generation will be able to enjoy the invaluable contribution the trees give."

Right across the borough the people greatly value the green space which the trees are a part of - however very few are of the maturity and age of these four.

When Richard III now so famously died in battle, they would have been saplings.

The tree work, which started last autumn, is now complete meaning residents can enjoy their splendour and the array of wildlife they attract for many years to come.

Executive Councillor for the environment Colin Smith said: "As one of London’s greenest boroughs, projects such as this are vital for ensuring the future of our trees and woodlands and thanks to the work of our arboriculturalists, these magnificent Oak trees will be around for many more years for all to enjoy.

"As always, tree felling is an absolute last resort and we are thankful that in these cases it was not necessary."

Petts Wood was a wood long before it became a suburb of London with the name first appearing in 1577 as 'the wood of the Pett family'.

They were shipbuilders who leased the wood from the area as a source of timber.

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