3rd February 2021
By Peter Coles
As the campaign to save the veteran Bethnal Green mulberry tree gains ground with a forthcoming judicial review, another, humbler, but much-loved mulberry six miles away in Islington is also under threat from the developer’s axe. Younger than the Bethnal Green mulberry, with its 16th century associations with Bishop Bonner, the Islington mulberry is nevertheless a very respectable 70 years old, and stands in a neat triangle of grass on the edge of the Park View Estate on Collins Road in full view of passers-by on the street.
Yet, when the Park View estate came up for redevelopment, the residents were so protective of their beloved mulberry tree that the developers changed their plans in order to keep it. This was clearly stated in their planning application of 2017.
So it came as quite a shock to residents of Park View when they recently received a notification explaining that the tree did not have a viable future and would be felled after all. Assurances were given that cuttings would be taken from the mulberry and grown on to form saplings to be planted around the estate.
No details have been given of the justification so far for declaring that the mulberry has a short life expectancy. The tree stands about 10 metres tall and is in fine health, producing abundant leaves and fruit every year , which the residents enjoy. An informal inspection by a mulberry specialist noted that an upper limb had ad torn off leaving a wound which has healed. There is also evidence of other branches being pruned back. This would ordinarily increase the vigour of the tree and reduce its susceptibility to leaning over and being blown over in high winds. There is some evidence of hollowing of the trunk, but this is the case for mulberry trees which have gone on to reach the ripe old ages of 300 years to 400 years, and still producing fruit each year.
The mulberry on Wanstead Golf Course is 300 years old, hollow, and going strong!
The Bethnal Green mulberry, through a vigorous local campaign has succeeded in raising funds to engage legal advisors, attract coverage in the national press and muster local support. The Park View Estate mulberry doesn’t have this high profile, but is no less deserving of preservation, given the strength of residents’ affection for the tree and no credible justification being offered for it to be felled? It may just be in the wrong place.