Highlights of the upcoming Urban Tree Festival

To celebrate the Urban Tree Festival which starts tomorrow, we provide a few festival highlights including two hosted by Gerit Quealy, author of Botanical Shakespeare.

Medlars on a tree

The Urban Tree Festival is an annual community celebration of trees, including their benefits, beauty, majesty, and magic, in cities, towns and all urban environments. The festival is run by a non-political, not-for-profit, group of passionate volunteers and staff, organising events, celebrations, walks and talks throughout London and the UK, to educate, inspire and share their enjoyment of trees.

A few festival highlights

  • Londinium’s Mulberry Trees walk :The oldest mulberries in London are seeds from mulberry fruit (now in the Museum of London archives) found in various Roman sites near to London Bridge and along the Walbrook River, dating from the 1st century CE. The walk traces London’s Roman and Saxon heritage using mulberry trees as waypoints and ends in Fountain Court (Middle Temple), adjacent to the 12th century Temple Church.
  • Come Meet the Urban Medlar: Gerit Quealy, author of Botanical Shakespeare leads a celebration of the ancient medlar fruit. With three of London’s remaining Medlar trees looking over proceedings at the fabulous Word on the Water book barge (Regents Canal, Kings Cross) attendees will be taken on a whistlestop tour of the history of the medlar, with unique tastings of this unusual fruit and more Shakespeare flavours from Ruby Violet ice cream. A lutenist will also be there to transport guests back to Elizabethan times, where players and audience will re-enact some of Shakespeare’s naughtier scenes where the medlar is featured.
  • Celebration of Olives: Save the Olives Fundraiser’: Along with the Urban Tree Festival team, Gerit Quealy will climb the stairs to the iconic St Pancras Clocktower for the ‘Celebration of Olives: Save the Olives Fundraiser’ event. This is a rare opportunity to see behind the doors of this now semi-private residence, which provides the backdrop to the session, which will focus on efforts that are being undertaken to save olives. With Xylella plaguing olive trees across the Puglia region of Italy and full-on extinction becoming a real threat, action must now be taken to prevent the spread of this disease. Paul Wood, author of ‘London is a Forest’, will take attendees on a journey of London’s little-known olive trees, whilst Stefano Petroni from the NGO, Save the Olives, will explain more about the plight of these much-loved trees and how their salvation is in our hands. Finally, Gerit Quealy will also entice you with a historical and poetic look at the olive branch.
  • Guided Tour of Southwark Park’s Trees: Southwark Park is one of London’s largest and oldest public parks and home to many fine and interesting trees, many of which date back to its foundation. The Park was opened in 1869 to a design by Alexander McKenzie, the original layout of which is still largely intact. This guided walk is a chance to explore the nineteenth century landscape, including the many fine London plane trees in the park. The walk is organised by the Southwark Park Association and is led by Paul Wood, one of London’s leading tree experts and the author of several books; ‘London’s Street Trees’, ‘London Tree Walks’ and ‘London is a Forest’.
  • Churchill Gardens: An Architectural Utopia Among The Trees: Churchill Gardens in Pimlico is one the greenest postwar housing estates as well as being one of the biggest and most admired modernist developments in the UK. Construction work started on the 1600 homes in 1946 and the final phase was completed in the early 1960s. Central to the estate’s design are the green spaces and especially the trees that are such a striking feature among the housing blocks. The trees have matured over the last eighty years and have turned this corner of SW1 into a veritable arboretum. Paul Wood will lead a tour through Pimlico which takes in Churchill Gardens, guiding visitors to the dozens of exceptional trees, including such rarities as a Varnish Tree and an Italian Maple.

The 2024 Urban Tree Festival takes place from the 11th – 19th of May, in London and across the country. Full event listings can be found in the festival programme of events.