Saving the Oaks – Sydenham Wood

Down the long trail of Cox’s walk that traces the outer edge of Sydenham Hill Wood in South East London, lie two much contested oak trees. Both 100 years old, they are still considered young in the huge potential life span of an ancient oak. Each tree holds a magnitude of life, an entire ecosystem in itself. Insects, fungi, birds, all manner of creatures and plants all interact symbiotically with these mature trees. The intricate system of nature hosted by a tree of such an age is irreplacable.

However, the future of this mighty pair of oaks is under grave threat. Southwark Council has plans to fell both trees in order make way for the repairs to a footbridge that falls between them. The community group has demonstrated how felling of the trees can be averted in alternative plans to repair the footbridge. Insisting that infact the destruction of the trees will increase the the instability of the land around the bridge further undermining safe passage. The council have responded to the group saying the doomed future of the trees is unavoidable and pushed the development plans through.

On Monday morning of the 16thNovember, the fellers were turned away by one brave lady refusing to move from infront of the trees. Since, there has been no further attempts to continue the planned works and committed members from the community group have maintained a 24/7 presence on site. Despite growing petition numbers, media attention and pleas to the council, the ultimate barrier to these works will be this direct protection from those who are willing to take the matter in to their own hands. 

The latest move from Southwark to evict the community group is the application for a court injunction which will make physical presence on site an offence. The coming days will decide the dicey future of these trees but physical presence on site, injuction or not, will no doubt be crucial. There is only a week left until the planning application goes through manditory reconsideration so this final push to keep guard of the oaks must hold fast. Get down there to support if you can.


Since the previous post, there have been some very positive developments regarding the oak trees in Sydenham woods. Firstly, the high court judge REJECTED the application for an injunction! After this, the occupiers held fast for further week until Southwark Council’s planning permission lapsed on the 3rd of December. This means the application must be reapplied for before the trees can be lawfully felled. Victory!!!

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