By Stuart Checkley

Street Trees for Living (STfL) is a local charity which works with residents and Lewisham Council to raise funds to pay for street trees and to care for them. In recent years we have raised over £50,000 annually for trees and we have been able to plant more than 200 trees each year.

Street trees come to SE23

We planted our first tree in Forest Hill in the winter of 2017/8 and since then across SE23 we have planted more than 50.

Tree planting in our area is challenged by a steep and windy hill, by more than our fair share of London Clay and by a number of narrow pavements. Yet we have planted a range of small colourful trees which are now thriving. Modern varieties of Crab Apple such as those illustrated here are good examples of small trees with colourful flowers and fruit, which are of interest throughout the year. Surprisingly, many of these modern varieties are completely new to the streets of Forest Hill and Perry Vale.

Local communities become involved

We work with volunteers who would like more trees on their street. They leaflet their street and identify others who would like more trees. We then meet groups of residents, and together decide the best way to use the available funds to benefit the street.  We submit our plans to the Council, who makes the final decision, and organises the planting of the trees. Local residents water the trees for the first two years and we conduct annual audits of all trees to ensure that they become established. If a tree fails in the first two years the Council will replace it free of charge.

Specific projects

This year we are working with TfL and Clean Air for SE23 to identify sites along the South Circular where trees could be planted at the roadside. We have found very few planting opportunities on the pavements but there are a number possibilities on green spaces at the roadside. TfL has agreed to fund these trees and Alice Tate-Harte (Clean Air for SE23) will be in touch with residents about this.

Next year STfL is  planning to plant 100 trees in front of schools across the Borough. The details are being worked out, but anyone interested in these projects, or anyone interested in more trees for their street, would be welcome to contact me at

 Stuart is a resident of Forest Hill and a trustee of Street Trees for Living