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Giant Redwood Avenue - September 2019 - taken by Martin Dobson
Tony originally wrote to us in February with the news that some of the trees along the verges of Canons Drive (including 32 Wellingtonias, five Dawn Redwood and one Coast Redwood) were under threat of being felled due to insurance claims quoting subsidence.

Tony wrote; "To us this would be vandalism, as there are other remedies such as root barriers and underpinning.
Taking out any trees from this magnificent avenue would destroy its appearance."

The Council were intent on removing the T.P.O's on the trees and so I'm afraid I was fairly pessimistic about this news as I have heard many such stories during the years.
Sadly my experience when hearing about councils wanting to remove trees is that they nearly always get their way.

Still I offered my opinion and wrote back to Tony: The individual trees themselves are relatively rare, but to have such a superb avenue of excellent specimens in such an area is even rarer, and it seems ludicrous to deny such an amenity from present and future generations. The proposed destruction of a number of the trees is not only bad in that it ruins the avenue, but it sets a precedent that other homeowners and insurers will almost certainly use to ease through their own applications to destroy the remaining trees.

These are very long-lived trees, so their destruction is something that will deny their amenity not just from the present or next generations of people, but from a great many generations to come. In an era when we have come to value trees (and the natural environment in general) more than we have done ever in the past, it seems absurd that people are seeking to destroy such a valuable asset.

Just a short time later we heard some good news from Tony, that two out of three appllications to revoke the T.P.O's had been dropped.
This is no mean feat, and must be down to much effort from all those concerned with trying to save these trees, not least of which is the very detailed report written by Canons Park Estate Ltd. which Tony sent us.

The document gives the history and background of the Wellingtonias on Canons Drive and includes the above photograph taken in September 2019. Here are a couple of excerpts from this comprehensive paper:

Who planted the trees and when?
The spectacular redwood trees along Canons Drive were probably planted in the 1860s by Dr David Begg, who owned the estate at that time. The word “probably“ is used because he purchased the land in 1860 but died in 1868. Dr Begg started by felling most of the trees that lined the Avenue when he made the purchase - probably oaks, limes and horse chestnuts as a few of these at the east end of the avenue are still there, but by the time Dr Begg’s widow died in 1887, the upper end of the Avenue had young redwoods on each side.

More historical detail is provided by the Victoria County History on Middlesex. See the section on Stanmore Manors on this British History link: “Humphry Repton landscaped the gardens for Sir Thomas Plumer and by 1887 evergreens had been planted along the south-eastern avenue to replace trees that had been felled by Dr Begg”. 1887 was the year that Dr Begg’s wife died so one can infer that the replanting was done by either David or Elizabeth Begg.

In 1966 under the Town and Country Planning Act of 1962, Harrow Council made a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) covering all the trees on the grass verges of Canons Drive . This banned any felling or pruning of these trees except with Harrow Council consent to an application. If consent was refused, the person thereby suffering a consequential loss could claim compensation unless (section 5) the trees had “outstanding or special amenity value”. Section 5 was discontinued in the Town and Country Planning (Tree Preservation) Regulations, 2012. Nothing was put in its place to protect local authorities from compensation claims.

In 1990 the Canons Park Estate was designated a Conservation Area after extensive research and consultations.The Conservation Area Designation Statement sets out the policies that guide the Council in determining TPO applications: Policy 5 says: “Development which adversely affects significant garden and street trees, hedges and verges will be resisted”.

Height and life expectancy
In Canons Drive there are 32 Wellingtonias, fiveDawn redwoods and one Coast redwood. Their average height is 24.3m (80 feet), the tallest being 32m (105 feet), a Wellingtonia outside number 19. These are by no means the largest or tallest in the country. This link shows redwoods in Wiltshire, planted by the Marquis of Bath in the 1850s, that are now about 58m (190 feet) tall.

A Google search shows many examples of redwoods in Britain, either individual trees or small groves, but there are few examples of an avenue of trees on each side of a residential road. Canons Drive is unique in the London boroughs. We are the present custodians of a botanical treasure that our descendants will enjoy for the next 100 generations! While the house owners, tree owners, their insurance companies, loss adjusters and regulatory authorities wrangle, the trees quietly go on absorbing carbon dioxide, slowing down global warming, and emitting oxygen, enriching the atmosphere, which is particularly valued during the Covid pandemic of 2020 - 2021. Woodman, woodman, spare that tree!

You can read more about the history and details of these trees in the Canons Park Estate newsletters, and in particular issues for 2019 and 2021

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