Churches across London are making their neighbourhood a greener, cleaner and more bee-friendly place as part of a new project supported by the Mayor of London.
The Conservation Foundation's Trees for Sacred Spaces project is enabling London churches to plant trees that support bees and other pollinators as part of the Mayor's ambition to make London one of the greenest cities in the world. The tree plantings also offer an opportunity for churches to organise events and ceremonies that involve members of other faiths in their parishes to celebrate and help to enhance the environments that people of all faiths and no faith share.
During Interfaith Week (12 - 19 November) and National Tree Week (25 November - 3 December) The Conservation Foundation is delivering over 300 trees to 53 sites across London. Whilst not all churches have suitable spaces, those with nowhere to plant a tree are donating theirs to a school or community garden within their parish, helping to increase London's tree canopy cover and support bees and other wildlife to thrive in London.
Churches were offered a choice from 12 different species: hawthorn, bird cherry, wild cherry, whitebeam, crab apple, rowan, lime, tulip tree, Italian cypress, black mulberry, strawberry tree and yew. Of these, rowan, wild cherry and mulberry are the most in demand. All improve air quality and also support bees by providing pollen, nectar or resin.
The project is supported by the diocesan bishops. Launching Trees for Sacred Spaces in February shortly before his retirement, The Rt Revd Richard Chartres, former Bishop of London, said, "It gives me great pleasure that one of the final projects I will launch as Bishop of London will offer our churches the opportunity to plant more trees in their areas, contributing to local air quality as well providing places of peace and beauty for generations to come." He continued, "In our global city, in this interconnected world, practising love of our neighbours means looking after the natural environment that we share. Parishes across London's dioceses have made strides in encouraging biodiversity in our churchyards through Churchyards for London."
Bishop Chartres played a pivotal role in developing The Conservation Foundation's Yews for the Millennium project which planted over 8000 yew trees, many in churchyards, throughout the country to celebrate the year 2000.The Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, is equally enthusiastic. He explains, "The Mayor of London's tree planting initiative is an innovative way of contributing to the life of London's communities by improving the city's air quality and also brightening its public spaces.
He continued, "The Diocese of Southwark is playing its part in the initiative by giving all of our parishes in the Greater London area a tree for their churchyard, or to pass to their local schools and community gardens. I am pleased to commend this project as an important way of helping to steward the earth's natural resources."
Welcoming the involvement of churches, Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy, Shirley Rodrigues, says, "The Mayor wants London to be one of the world's greenest cities and is introducing a wide range of measures to fulfil this ambition: a first step has been the commitment to provide £750,000 to plant more than 40,000 new London trees this winter, including helping The Conservation Foundation plant more than 300 trees in or near churchyards across London."
David Shreeve, director of The Conservation Foundation, says, "A fifth of the capital is already covered by trees but some parts of London are short of greenery. Churches can play an important role in helping to make these areas look and feel better by planting one of the trees. All the trees available will be bee-friendly and therefore as well as benefiting London's landscape and atmosphere they will also be supporting the capital's pollinators."