People who live in Walthamstow tend to be pretty into nature (or at least, we pretend/attempt to be into it). The shop windows are crowded with the leaves of parlour palm and yucca plants. In the pre-lockdown weekends, the Wetlands were so packed there was usually a queue for the bird hide. You could barely go to a pub without someone inviting you to join their seed swap session.
Recently, in a fittingly Walthamstow-move, someone has started writing captions in chalk for the trees of E17, identifying each species. The wholesome graffiti is a bit like the staff recommendations in Waterstones, but for street trees with notes like: ‘Sycamore – a real survivor, grows anywhere!’ and ‘London plane, (my favourite, takes pollution out of the air)’.
The messages were first shared on twitter, and everyone went berserk for it (including Chris Packham). Because it’s twitter, the mystery pavement tagger was soon found: it’s Walthamstow’s Rachel Summers, who runs a local forest school called Curious Wilds.
Rachel got the idea post-lockdown, while she was out doing her daily walk, and missing the woodlands she was used to working in every day. But then she started to notice the street trees around her area. ‘I was very aware of so many families I work with where they are mostly stuck indoors, without gardens, and in flats. There’s been so much tutting about how people access open green space, mostly coming from people soaking up the sun happily in their own gardens. I wondered how I could use the little I have right now to present the very streets, our last free access outside space, as a gift to those around me.’
So the next time she went out, she brought chalk along with her, annotating the trees as she went, hoping that others would start to become more aware of the nature that’s nestled around these ordinary London streets. Images of Rachel’s captions have now been shared more than 100,000 times on Twitter, so we reckon she’s succeeded. ‘I don’t know about you,’ says Rachel, ‘but I feel snowed under by resources of things I can do to better myself, to educate myself, to stop myself being bored, as if I have time to get bored! Living through a pandemic is quite exhausting enough! But this is a simple easy win.’
Want to bring some nature in to your home too? The cancelled Chelsea Flower Show is selling thousands of plans online.
... Or you could order a full delivery from one of these plant shops.