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Our 'estate'... trees

This article is one of a number offering expert but general advice about maintenance and repair of property in our area.

This, the third article, on trees,
has kindly been contributed by Bill Ambridge

Also see...

Stone Garden Walls  Common Property Issues No.1
Common Property Issues No.4


Click on headings on list of contents or scroll down the page


There is an orange cross on the pavement across the road from the Redland Mini Mart. A new tree will shortly be planted here by the City Council, paid for by a number of local residents and RCAS.

By agreement of the closest neighbours, the tree will be a Ginkgo biloba, which is a broadleaf and deciduous conifer(!). This tree will eventually mature to a reasonable size and become an important feature in Redland Road.

The choice of a Ginkgo raises a number of issues about appropriate trees for the area, and what follows is a discussion about trees in Redland and Cotham, and a little guidance on appropriate trees for the area.

Redland and Cotham have reasonably distinct characters within the framework of wider Bristol. The scale and development patterns of the area have provided a legacy of trees rather different from other Bristol conservation areas such as Georgian Clifton. Much of our area is Victorian, with a reasonable provision of mature street trees, although there is an obvious inconsistency, with public trees ranging in scale from Flowering Cherries to Limes, Horse Chestnuts and London Planes.

The considerable extent of our treescape can be seen from Redland Green, with larger trees principally in main streets. Many of our roads rely on garden trees and these make a major contribution to our area. These are an asset and a responsibility, requiring expert care including surgery to keep looking good. As RCAS members will know all such work requires planning approval.

No permission is needed to plant new trees and a tree of stature, where space permits, is an asset to the wider community and any virtually tree is a benefit in many ways

Trees reduce the effects of pollution from cars and buildings

By contributing significantly to the aggregate biomass, there is resultant cleaner air with fewer pollutants.
Buildings contribute more than anything to the quantity of carbon dioxide in urban areas and trees are an effective way to reduce it.

Leaves not only absorb carbon dioxide, but also ozone, carbon monoxide and sulphur dioxide.

They give off oxygen, trap dust and other airborne contaminates which are removed by rain.

Trees provide seasonal interest

Trees have the greatest impact on our awareness of the seasons. Even species that do not ostensibly flower or have particular autumn or spring colouring have a significant impact both as they come into leaf, and again as they loose their leaves. Even evergreen trees play a part in reinforcing the deciduous nature of the majority, whilst providing particular interest during the winter months.

Trees provide an ecological reserve

The number of species sustained by most trees is very high, especially in comparison with almost any other form of vegetation. A single Oak tree can support up to 500 different species ranging from other plants to insects, birds and mammals. The shear quantity of biomass available from a mature tree can produce a self-sustaining biodiversity, which is particularly important to encourage in urban locations, where any opportunity to provide an improvement in the quality of life should be embraced.

Trees reduce environmental impact of urban living

Mass tree planting significantly reduces the effects of rain and cold wind. Even single trees provide protection from the elements. Trees also contribute to sustainability by helping to regulate urban temperatures, moderating glare and heat from paved surroundings and reducing energy consumption. They also make use of rainfall that otherwise goes to waste via our sewers.

Trees are known to instill feelings of calm and serenity

The cathedral-like quality of an avenue of trees is rarely lost on those who experience such spaces. The overall longevity of trees contributes to their place in the popular psyche, reinforcing positive attitudes to life, which is why they are so often planted as memorials.

New tree planting

needs careful consideration! An attractive tree in a pot, at a height of 2 metres, will almost certainly grow into something substantial sooner or later, by which time it will have acquired its rights and may well prove difficult to remove both legally and physically. What we plant today may not have much impact for twenty years or so, but the lasting effect of a Beech tree on its local environment will be felt well into the next century and possibly beyond. Unless you have space – now and in the future – it’s wise to consider either smaller trees, or a programme of management that will avoid future problems, such as clear stemming and crown lifting.

Consideration should also be given to:


Plant the tree where it can grow well without affecting light, security, walls buildings or foundations, or underground services such as drains and water mains.

Growth Patterns

Fast growing and greedy species can prove problematic. Trees such as Willow and Poplar should be avoided in town,
as should Eucalyptus which is prone to wind damage.


Fastigiate trees, with an erect form, are often perceived as a good compromise in terms of canopy spread, but their compact growth patterns result in dense canopies. Species with a wider canopy but a looser branch structure can be better. It is important to choose only trees which do well in urban areas, or those that can contribute most to the atmosphere.

Suggested species

Here are few suggestions of interesting or useful species –
a highly selective and very personal list...

click here to see tree list