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Paul Wood

Paul Wood

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Did you know that London is the world’s largest urban forest?

Did you know that London is the world’s largest urban forest?

London’s skyline is soaring. Sometimes it feels like the only things growing in this city are towers of glass, steel and concrete. Look closer, though, and you’ll find something else putting down roots and scaling heights around town. Our capital is full of trees. In fact, while it might not always seem like it, London is so packed with foliage that it’s technically a forest. That’s according to a United Nations definition that states that a forest is anywhere that’s at least 20 percent trees. London’s a respectable 21 percent. While that doesn’t quite put the city in the same bracket as the Amazon, it leaves us competing with Sherwood and the New Forest – places that are considered to be pretty leafy. There are a massive 8.4 million trees across the capital, nearly one for each of us 8.6million Londoners. Wind back the clock a few centuries, and London was a smaller city surrounded by countryside, including hefty areas of woodland. South London’s Great North Wood (the reason for place names like Norwood and Forest Hill) once stretched from Croydon to Deptford. What’s now Heathrow airport was a tiny corner in a heathland landscape of trees, grass and heather spanning from Hounslow to Hillingdon. Precious pockets of this ancient woodland still survive: Highgate, Queens and Coldfall Woods in north London; Sydenham Hill, Oxleas and Lesnes Abbey in the south. All boast old, gnarled and characterful trees; oaks, hornbeam and some rarities, like the wonderfully named wild service t

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10 eye-catching trees you can spot on lockdown walks around London (picked by an expert)

10 eye-catching trees you can spot on lockdown walks around London (picked by an expert)

Are you pining for a nature fix on your daily lockdown exercise? The aptly named Paul Wood, whose new guide to the urban forest, ‘London’s Street Trees’, has just been published, says you need look no further than the trees on your neighbourhood streets. Here are some of the most eye-catching trees in flower around now. They’re just a few of the hundreds of different kinds that grace our pavements. 1. Judas tree     Photograph: Paul Wood   What to look out for: Magenta flowers bursting straight out of the branches. Where to see them: Fairly common around town: look out for them in Bermondsey, Kentish Town and Highgate. Why they’re amazing: Judas trees are named after Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus. Legend has it that, mortified by his duplicitous deed, he hanged himself from a branch of this tree. The formerly white-flowering judas tree was so humiliated by this association that it was shamed into becoming a pink bloomer. 2. Chinese dogwood     Photograph: Paul Wood   What to look out for: Big creamy, white, four-petaled flowers. Where to see them: Rather rare: go to Dalston, Dulwich and King’s Cross. Why they’re amazing: Producing such an unbelievable number of flowers, it’s hard to see the tree for the blossom. Sadly, those flowers don’t last forever but, come the autumn, a chinese dogwood can be covered in juicy red fruits, which is what warrants its other name, strawberry dogwood. 3. Handkerchief tree     Photograph: Paul Wood   What to look out for: Big w