Dead and Dying Trees in Lewisham’s Parks and Open Spaces

These photos show just some of the many trees at Mountsfield Park and other Lewisham parks that are dead or dying mainly due to strimmer and mower damage by Lewisham Council and their parks and open spaces contractor. Severe soil compaction due to vehicular traffic and drought are also factors contributing to the demise of many of the trees in Lewisham’s parks and open spaces.

  • Mountsfield Park April 2019 - fresh and historic careless strimmer damage
  • Strimmer damage - Mountsfield Park April 2019
  • Historic tree stem strimmer damage at Mountsfield Park
  • Mountsfield Park play area 2017 - recently planted semi-mature birch tree bought with Lewisham Section 106 funds, dead because of strimmer damage causing ring-barking or girdling. Replacement and maintenance cost £350.00 approx
  • Manor House Gardens, Lewisham April 2019 - fresh strimmer damage which could introduce fungal disease within the damaged cambium layer.
  • Recurring strimmer / brush cutter tree stem damage at Mountsfield Park April 2019
  • Strimmer damage - Mountsfield Park April 2019
  • Mountsfield Park April 2019 - Historic flowering cherry root damage due to mower blades set too low. Flowering cherries are susceptible to disease and should be protected from injury.
  • Strimmer damage to base of dying Tilia tomentosa art Mountsfield Park July 2019
  • Hilly Fields, Lewisham April 2019 no grass mowing or strimming allowed near to tree stem to avoid damage to surface roots and bark. By agreement with Friends of Hilly Fields, Lewisham parks officers and the parks and open spaces contractor, Glendale.
  • Mountsfield Park nature reserve 2017 - Felled Indian bean tree. This tree like many other trees that have died at Mountsfield Park have not been replaced with newly planted trees.
  • Strimmer damage on newly planted tree Beckenham Place Park Feb 2019
  • Historic strimmer damage allowing fungal infection at base of ash tree at Mountsfield Park 2018
  • Dead tree at Mountsfield Park 2017. Died prematurely due to mower and strimmer damage 2017
  • Mower damage to a hornbeam at Mountsfield Park 2018
  • Hilly Fields, Lewisham April 2019 - historic strimmer damage which will shorten the lifespan of this mature tree.
  • Strimmer damage Mountsfield Park Play area 2018
  • Recently planted semi mature maple at Mountsfield Park play area - dying because of strimmer damage which is causing ring-barking or girdling 2017
  • Dead avenue tree at Mountsfield Park near the Brownhill Road entrance. Died prematurely due to historic mower and strimmer damage.
  • Tree stump near Mountsfield Park community garden - premature death due to mower damage 2017. Contractor mower blades set much too low within proximity to tree stem, causing injury to surface roots and entry for harmful fungal infection.
  • Mountsfield Park April 2019 - historic strimmer damage

The Lewisham Council parks and open space managers instruct the landscape contractor to keep grass short right up to the base of each tree for a tidy appearance and because it is part of the current Lewisham contract specification. Unfortunately the Lewisham parks and open spaces contractor does not have sufficient capacity or resources to achieve a short grass sward next to trees without harming them. The strimmer and mower damage shown below will cause a tree to die quickly or slowly through introduction of disease via cuts and wounds.

Lewisham Council encourages external funding sought by volunteers for new and replacement tree planting eg from London tree and woodland awards, to make London greener, biodiverse, healthier, cleaner, more welcoming and more resilient. The future of existing and newly planted trees in Lewisham’s Parks and open spaces is uncertain if Lewisham Council continues to insist on short neatly cut grass up to the base of each parkland tree. At Hilly Fields park, Lewisham Council has recently experimented with mower and strimmer prohibition near to trees, which has effectively reduced further tree damage there. This approach should be applied by Lewisham’s green space officers and parks staff across the borough to protect trees, unless the Council is willing to invest in a more controlled, better resourced and skilled maintenance of our parks and open spaces.

References: 1. Arboriculture Research Note 1992. Issued by the Arboricultural Advisory & Information Service. Blight to trees caused by vegetation control machinery. D Patch, A Denyer. 2. Arboricultural Journal 2018 vol 40. Effects of strimmer damage to young ash trees. Sally A Shuck and Duncan Slater. 3. Tree Wounds – Invitations to Wood Decay Fungi 2018. Nicole Ward Gauthier, William E. Fountain, Traci Missun. University of Kentucky.