Battle to save “Mr Tree”, landmark in Rotherhithe which has stood for more than 75 years

By Alexandra Warren

Campaigners are fighting council plans to cut down a much-beloved tree – affectionately known as “Mr Tree”.

The tree, in King George’s Field, Rotherhithe, was set to be felled on December 1, but this has been delayed awaiting further assessments thanks to local opposition.

It is popular among children and adults alike – earning its name from its “face”, visible in the trunk.

Michael Robertson, 51, who lives on the Canada Estate and is involved in the campaign, said: “He gets seen by a lot of people every day.

“He’s got a good relationship with commuters going to work, coming back from work, but in particular lots of children who are on their way to school.

“They interact with him and that’s why I think it’s really touched our heartstrings because it’s nice.

“For me and the family the temporary stave of execution – even if it’s limited – is welcome. We are all anxious about the tree getting cut down on just such short notice.

“It’s very pleasing. I know it’s only temporary but if it goes any way to possibly saving that tree or if it amplifies the importance of greenery in the borough and the community then that would be a good thing.”

A notice appeared on “Mr Tree” and one other mature tree in the park a few weeks ago letting residents know the trees were to be chopped down.

They were planned to be removed due to safety fears because of internal decay, but a council officer will now carry out further surveys to determine whether the tree can be saved.

Mr Robertson said: “Obviously all the community are mindful of the fact that we don’t want to put other people at risk with falling branches or something.

“But they were just concerned if there was any way the council could manage to save the tree it would be hugely welcomed.”

“Mr Tree” is thought to be more than 75 years old and may date back to when the park was a churchyard.

It is currently a major landmark in the community as it stands on the main thoroughfare between Canada Water station and the Albion Street district and is passed by hundreds of people every day.

Rotherhithe has lost a large number of mature trees in the past five years, including 18 cherry trees in Lower Road that were felled this year to make way for new flats.

The oldest tree in the area, known as the “Rotherhithe Giant”, also came down in the summer, drawing a crowd of 100 people to watch.

Cllr Catherine Rose, cabinet member for environment, leisure and roads, said: “Our scanning and checks on this tree have identified significant internal decay, this means that there is a risk of it falling, and potentially harming park users or a passer-by.

“Our experienced tree team are currently assessing this risk, and we are working closely with local people to find the best and safest outcome for the tree and safety in the park.”

Pictured top: Axel  Robertson-Flores and his father Michael Robertson, who live on the Canada Estate


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