Situated in Bow, London, we set out to green the Malmesbury Estate to make it a healthier and happier place to live for local residents.
Back in 2021, we were approached by Wilder Communities, a group run by local Bow/Tower Hamlets residents who have implemented greening activities and interventions throughout the estate for the last few years. The group were keen to plant trees to help increase tree canopy cover in the area and to create green corridors for both residents and wildlife to enjoy.
The new urban greenery would also provide new wildlife habitats in the area for threatened species highlighted in the borough’s Biodiversity Action Plan, such as bats, hedgehogs, wild bees, amphibians and Brimstone butterflies. For this project we also made sure to use an all-natural planting spec, using untreated, locally sourced, coppiced chestnut timber for the cages which will support ladybirds, earwigs, solitary bees and potentially stag beetles.
Tower Hamlets is a key target area of ours and has one of the lowest tree canopy cover densities across all of London so we were keen to help support green the estate in any way we could. With additional support from Tower Hamlets Homes, we were able to get stuck in and start the planting process in October 2021!
We started off by planting thousands of daffodils, hyacinth, tulips and crocus bulbs that would bloom the following spring and were delighted to have pupils from Malmesbury Primary School join us to help. During this time, we also hosted a corporate volunteer event with Hermes who got stuck in to deturf and then plant a wildflower meadow to bring some colour to the estate in the Summer.
Getting all the school kids out into a big green space on the estate was a really, really successful experience. A lot of them had hardly planted anything in their life before, so it was a very novel experience which is a good first step for them. We all appreciate the benefit of a green environment these days and hopefully it’s the beginning of their greening journey, whatever route they might take.
James Clark, Trustee at Wilder Communities
The pupils from Malmesbury Primary School then joined in again with hedge planting in February 2022, where they learnt about the benefit of hedges for combating pollution from the surrounding road and for creating habitats for wildlife. More local school children joined us to plant a hedgerow after school as they'd heard about the planting from others in the playground and wanted to get involved. This hedge planting was finished off by corporate volunteers from VISA and Price and Myers.
In the last week of March 2022 we worked with Malmesbury Primary students again to plant four heavy standards in Harley Grove; two nettle trees and two cherry trees. We also planted three trees with local residents across the estate, with the returning help of VISA who helped finish off the project by planting standards, whips, hedges and also mulched, weeded and sowed.
Finally, we hosted our community planting day on Saturday 2nd April, where we planted an orchard made up of a mix of apples, plums, quinces and cherry trees. We also planted large standard trees in Trellis Square, Whitton Walk and Addington Place. It was great to see local residents who had engaged with us throughout the project show up on the day, some who already helped our corporate volunteers but wanted to join in again. Some of them only joined because they looked out the window and saw it happen! They were then talking about getting more involved with Wilder Communities' projects in the future.
of participants said that they had learnt something new or developed a new skill at our planting day at Malmesbury Estate
We had over 30 residents and wider London volunteers join us to help plant our trees. We also had attendance from Tower Hamlets Mayor, John Biggs, and Councillors Asma Begum and Val Whitehead. There was even a special appearance from local resident Bobby Bubbles who joined in with the fun and kept both the children (and adults!) entertained throughout the day!
Because we worked over such a long period of six months at Malmesbury Estate, it really felt like the planting was properly embedded in the community.
Hetty Fruer-Denham, Trees for Cities Community Engagement Coordinator
The Ahmadiyya Muslim Women's Association joined too, who have planted with Trees for Cities throughout the planting season. They're trying to reach a 1000 tree goal in their sub-group, but the association's goal as a whole (they're UK-based) is 100,000 trees to celebrate their 100th year.
of participants had plans to take action to plant, protect or promote urban trees after attending our planting event
In total, we planted 4,000 bulbs across the estate in Harley Grove, Creswick Walk, Colborn Road, Whitton Walk and Harris House. In addition to this, we used wildflower seeds to plant a meadow in Harley Grove. We then planted 560 whip trees, 20 large heavy standard trees and 10 fruit trees to create an orchard.
We caught up with James Clark from Wilder Communities six months after the planting to find out more about the impact the planting had on the local community.
"It looks better, it’s just visually more appealing" James told us. "I think there’s been appreciation within the estate of how the place looks a bit nicer. Something that we’ve always been quite keen on is that if an estate looks cared for and residents have planted something here, I think that it helps enhance people’s general awareness of maintaining the estate. We hope that people are less likely to drop litter, or to do further damage, which can be more prevalent in an estate that looks uncared for."
Not only have there been visual improvements to the estate but James has noticed an improvement to wellbeing for residents. "Over the summer, I’ve been spending a lot of time watering these trees and I noticed a local resident and his dad walking around the planted areas. The dad was grateful for the planting as his son has a significant learning difficulty and they walk around the estate for his son's daily exercise. Previously they would walk down paths and along buildings but now they can walk between trees and plants."
"We hope that through all this work, we are providing that resident with an experience that is better than what they previously had. It’s those sorts of examples that for us [makes] quite clear the impact. That is just one example, we don’t know about the people who live near these spaces, and open their window and can look out at the trees and the plants, but we hope they enjoy what they are seeing."
James also reported some new residents to the estate...
"Since the planting, we’ve noticed quite a range of different insects: grasshoppers, butterflies, bees and ladybirds, all in space that was previously just concrete or tarmac! Because of the planting, we have been able to introduce habitats that these critters actually depend on and can flourish. It’s really a dual benefit for both the residents, but also to wildlife."
It's fantastic to hear what an impact we, together with Wilder Communities, have already had on the Malmesbury Estate and can't wait to see it continue to flourish and be happy, healthy and green space for the community!
THANK YOU TO...
Tower Hamlets Homes
D'Oyly Carte Charitable Trust
British Standard Institute Group
Price & Myers
Martin Wills Wildlife Maintenance Trust
Ernest Kleinwort Charitable Trust
LVMH Fragrance Brands
Tower Hill Trust
Tower Hamlets Homes Inspiring Communities Fund