The BBC reports that Great Yarmouth Council has decided against planting fruit trees on the South Quay:

A council will not plant fruit trees in public places because of fears windfalls could be “used as missiles”.

Work on the Queen’s Green Canopy along Great Yarmouth’s South Quay will not feature apple, plum or pear trees, the borough council decided.

Labour councillor Marlene Fairhead questioned the suitability of fruit trees along South Quay, saying “they cause a bit of a hazard”.

“The fruit drops off, nobody claims it, it gets slippery, and also children pick it up and chuck it at each other,” she told the BBC.

“It’s a health and safety issue really. You get elderly people walking along the pavements.

“They assured us they will not plant them along the kerbsides.”

Councillor Fairhead has a very low opinion of her people, both the kids she thinks will pelt each other with rotting plums, and the old folk who will skid over on them.

Want to know why no-one claims the fruit, Councillor? I’ll tell you. It’s because people don’t know they are allowed to, and/or they are unaware that the variety grown is palatable. You meet with apple trees aplenty in the countryside, and they frequently taste disgusting. That is because they do not breed true when cross-fertilised: that apple tree that grew from a discarded core is unlikely to produce worthwhile fruit. But I can assure the councillor that people are not shy about harvesting food, particularly if the council were to put a sign on the trees saying: “Community resource. Please take what you need.” And they could easily plant varieties that would ripen in series. Hell, if they can’t get the public to pick apples, then they could tip off a local food bank to collect them. People collect sloes. They collect brambles. Even bilberries, with the aid of a ridiculous wooden comb whose name I forget. They will certainly take apples, plums etc if they know they can. I certainly would. But I would leave them alone if I was under the impression that someone else had the intention of harvesting them or if I thought they were ornamental varieties.

As an ecologist, few things rankle more than street-tree stupidity. I have recommended fruit trees to developers before, to be met with a pained grimace. “They’re messy,” is the reply. “People don’t harvest the fruit.”

Fruit trees are good because they have flowers (popular with insects) and, um, fruits, which are popular either with humans or birds. Native trees are host to plenty of insects, which in turn become food for blue tits etc.

What do councils plant instead? Frequently non-native species with no biodiversity value. If non-native trees have insects on them at all, they are likely to be non-native insects. And that makes them of low intrinsic biodiversity interest.

Great Yarmouth Council is going to plant:

A selection of trees, including honey locust, English oak and hornbeam

Two native tree species and one non-native tree, which has a single insect known to be associated with it. All three will drop leaves in autumn, which could conceal dog chocolate, and/or cause the elderly to unwillingly slide.

The Custard Curdles

There is something the professional eye will have noticed about one of the three photos the BBC uses to illustrate the story – it’s from Mr. Google, and I’ve clipped a very similar view out of his excellent application Google Earth to use as the featured image here.

What is curious about this image?

Great Yarmouth has already put in tree guards. They look like rather good quality ones too. Not those rubbish wooden ones. These are metal railings. Why would this be odd? There they are, ready for the trees to come. It was with great foresight that Great Yarmouth put these in… according to Mr. Google, at least 15 years ago.

In fact, in aerial photographs from 2006, we can see not only the tree guards, but the trees they are guarding too. In the next clear image, dated 2017, the tree guards are empty. Every single tree has been removed. And the tree guards have remained forlornly waiting for a new job for the subsequent 5 years.

The two-year project involves planting more than 500 trees by March 2023 in urban areas of Great Yarmouth, as part of the Forgotten Places: Greening Coastal Towns and Cities initiative.

The total budget of £261,840, the council said, included £40,000 of Town Deal government money to replace trees along South Quay that had to be dug up in 2013 after they failed to thrive.

OK, so the tree guards have actually been empty for nigh on ten years. And that wince-worthy budget? About £500 per tree. Trees can be had for next to nought, and the public could be roped in to plant them. This is a colossal waste of public dosh.

Now, if you have a very professional eye, you might have noticed something else, too. Them thar tree guards appear to be quite close together, don’t they?

Yes. They are. On the aerial photograph you can estimate the space between the centres as 13 feet. Perfect, one might think, for a dainty little fruit tree. Not a lumbering oak, which when fully grown will span 25 metres.


Few things annoy this ecologist more than planting the wrong kind of street tree. Maybe fruit trees will not thrive so close to the salty lower reaches of the River Yare. I would plant a range of kinds to see what works. But oaks won’t do unless you go for fastigiate forms, whereas the best kind for biodiversity are the kind that grow into giants with open crowns. A row of holm oaks would certainly thrive, but have low biodiversity scores.

Something that annoys this ecologist even more than the wrong kind of street tree is the use of plastic turf in front gardens as faux lawns. This is so stupid that I would reserve such material for sports pitches if I could. So unless you could persuade me that your front lawn is actually a tennis court, sling yer hook! No Astroturf for you.

Actually, that’s a thought. Perhaps Great Yarmouth council could plant plastic trees? No insects, no birds, no fruit, no leaves in autumn, no mess at all. And most of all, no hazards for the witless public to worry about.


  1. Maybe the people who would normally have nudged the heavy-witted council officers toward more sophisticated environmental thinking, are all off setting themselves alight or gluing themselves to random objects in the name of Extinction Rebellion!


  2. These days when all costs are spiralling I would have thought that free food bounty in the form of council provided food from planted fruit trees on their own streets would have been fought over rather than be spurned. This might have become a future scenario with people determined to protect their own trees from depredations of others. Hoards of Norwich scrumpers descending upon the street orchards of Great Yarmouth. Someone could write a film script.


  3. The first duty of an inhabitant of forlorn neighborhoods, like the village of —, is to use all possible influence to have the streets planted with trees. To plant trees, costs little trouble or expense to each property holder; and once planted, there is some assurance that, with the aid of time and nature, we can at least cast a graceful veil over the deformity of a country home, if we cannot wholly remodel its features. Indeed, a village whose streets are bare of trees, ought to be looked upon as in a condition not less pitiable than a community without a schoolmaster, or a teacher of religion; for certain it is, when the affections are so dull, and the domestic virtues so blunt that men do not care how their own homes and villages look, they care very little for fulfilling any moral obligations not made compulsory by the strong arm of the law; while, on the other hand, show us a Massachusetts village, adorned by its avenues of elms, and made tasteful by the affection of its inhabitants, and you also place before us the fact, that it is there where order, good character, and virtuous deportment most of all adorn the lives and daily conduct of its people.

    (Downing, A.J. “On the Improvements of Country Villages.” Rural Essays, edited by George William Curtis, New York, 1853. 229–235.)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I recall living at Double Oak, between Dallas and Fort Worth and sited upon sandy soil, where there was a competition to grow the mighty trees and, as Downing wrote (above) adorn our lives. All attempts failed. We left before the Double Oakers tried more suitable arboreal adornments.

    Today I live in deep Norfolk where we have no council-planted trees but the main road in my part of town is blessed with wide grass verges. But trees we have a plenty of all different species from towering oaks and horse chestnuts to more diminutive hornbeams and aspens. Those adjacent to the verges provide irresistible smell-stations for my dogs as they are walked.

    This contrasts with my home setting in East London as a youth: row upon row of housing with plane trees along the roads. These trees were pruned every autumn with main branches reduced to stubs. The tree bark would peel all year into irregular patches leaving the tree trunks like Picasso artworks. I was told plane trees withstood the pollution in our air best, although I recall the roads with more prestigious housing had different tree species.


  5. The total budget of £261,840, the council said, included £40,000 of Town Deal government money to replace trees along South Quay that had to be dug up in 2013 after they failed to thrive.

    Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. If only Councils would spend money wisely, then monitor and look after projects instead of forgetting about them. So much in the way of “environmentalism” actually amounts to no more than expensive tick-box exercises that achieve nothing and waste a lot.


  6. Here we go again:

    “Trees to be replanted by A14 after mass death”

    National Highways is due to replant more than 160,000 trees on a new stretch of A14 after many died soon after being put into the ground.

    More than 860,000 were planted on the £1.5bn stretch between Huntingdon and Cambridge before it opened in 2020.

    The government body surveyed the unsuccessful trees and analysed soil samples to work out why they failed.

    A revised replanting strategy was made, including an aftercare programme, with planting due to begin in October.

    About 270 hectares (667 acres) of habitat was created for wildlife along the new section of A14, which allows three lanes of traffic in both directions between Brampton and Bar Hill.

    This included the landscaping of roadside verges and transformation of borrow pits into a mixture of woodland, grassland and wetland.

    More than 860,000 trees were planted, including 40 native tree and shrub species.

    However, the high failure rate among the new trees caused alarm….

    The reference to a revised planting strategy, including an aftercare programme, rather suggests that the original programme didn’t include such a thing. What folly. What a waste.


  7. BBC country file covered this, as a non tree expert, I would probably just plant them & leave them to grow also.
    was it the “heatwave summer” that killed them?


  8. Dougie, yes, maybe it didn’t help. Anecdotally a large proportion of trees on schemes like this always die. As we have discussed, contractors are seemingly paid to put trees in the ground with no regard to what proportion survives. As you might imagine, timing of planting, species of tree, condition of tree at time of planting and other factors have roles to play. Key though is probably the haste and lack of care of the planting itself.

    I would prefer to see fewer trees planted in the first place, since biodiverse grassland is fairly easy to make from new. It’s a better use of embankments than a poor quality young plantation, and will eventually become scrub and then woodland if left alone long enough.


  9. Is this really re-wilding?

    “Country diary: The rolling hills have been planted with 280,000 trees of 15 species
    Broughton, Yorkshire: The estate is only three years into the most transformative example of rewilding in England”

    …Here, the rolling hills, just south of the national park, have been planted with 280,000 trees of 15 species across 192 hectares (474 acres). In 2023, a further 72 hectares of the same bright green hue are earmarked for conversion to wood pasture.

    Currently, the planted areas are a forest of plastic tree-sleeves…


  10. It seems to be a day of stories about trees, some sad, some bizarre, some (like this one) from the “you couldn’t make it up” section:

    “Hundreds of trees to be felled for Cambridge bus route to tackle climate change”

    Hundreds of trees in an orchard designated as a habitat of principal importance in England should be felled to build a new busway to tackle climate change, councillors in Cambridgeshire voted on Tuesday.

    The county council voted by 33 to 26 to approve a new public transport busway, which will use optically guided electric or hybrid buses on its route, to provide links between Cambridge and Cambourne, an expanding new town eight miles outside the city.

    Huge public opposition to the felling of trees in Coton Orchard has led to thousands of people signing a petition calling for them to be saved. Coton Orchard contains about 1,000 trees and grows 26 varieties of apples, as well as pears and plums.

    The vote came a week after Plymouth city council felled more than 100 mature trees in a scheme to regenerate and “transform” the city with a new walkway from the sea to the city centre.


  11. Regarding the A14 trees, this is an image used in the Telegraph to illustrate the situation:

    I would suggest planting 100 times fewer trees would be a better solution ecologically speaking, and the contractors might put them in with a bit more care if they didn’t have to plant so many. By the way, the Telegraph thinks that 250,000 trees are going to be replaced, with is substantially more than the 160,000 mentioned by the BBC.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So far as I can see, this has nothing to do with climate change, but it doesn’t stop the BBC inserting it at the end of the article:

    “River Dove: Thousands of trees planted to protect salmon”

    The theory, it seems, is this:

    Woody material in the river causes changes to the flow, creating riffles, pools and slack areas of water, vital places important for the success of the early life stages for many different fish species, including salmon.

    So how does the BBC end the article?

    Last year, England recorded its joint hottest summer on record with outside temperatures exceeding 40C (104F).

    Short-term, Salmon parr can survive in water temperatures of up to 29.5C but over a prolonged period, this limit drops to 28C, the trust said.

    The articles is tagged “climate change”, naturally.


  13. “New Norfolk country parks to meet tree planting target”

    New country parks could be created as part of a council’s target to plant one million trees by 2025.

    Norfolk County Council announced plans to put in more trees and hedges across the county four years ago.

    Since the plan was announced, the authority has only reached a quarter of its target…

    …The council hopes the scheme will help it achieve its target of producing net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

    That would be this Norfolk Council:

    “Fears over impact of Norfolk County Council cuts”

    Fears have been raised over the impact £60m of council cuts and savings will have on Norfolk’s most vulnerable people.

    Campaign group Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) Norfolk and UNISON County Branch are joining forces to fight to protect services, jobs and conditions.

    Norfolk County Council is consulting over next year’s budget and there are fears the need to save cash will hit groups such as the disabled and older people.

    Mark Harrison, of DPAC Norfolk, said: “Services have been devastated over the last 12 years of austerity and are stretched to breaking point.

    “It calls into question, yet again, the council’s ability to meet its legal duties under the Care Act and Children and Families Act. These are life and death questions.”

    The Conservative-controlled authority needs to save £60m in 2022/23, as part of efforts to plug a £116m gap by 2027.

    In July, the authority outlined how it intends to save £13m, including part closures of recycling centres and reducing the mobile library service.

    And a further £19.5m savings were proposed in September, including £11.7m from adult social services and £1.8m from children’s services.

    But that still leaves £27.5m more, some £16m of which could be found through a strategic review council bosses have said will mean “significant” job cuts.

    I could just as easily (and as appropriately) have posted this here:

    Whatever The Cost


  14. “St Albans City Council defends decision to fell 250 trees”

    A council has defended its decision to fell 250 trees, saying they were “dead, dying or a health and safety risk”.

    Environment campaigners in St Albans, Hertfordshire, have disputed the number and said as many trees as possible should be preserved.

    Green councillor Simon Grover said a “tree management strategy fit for the era of the climate crisis” was needed.

    The local authority said the number recommended for removal was less than 1% of its 30,000 highway trees…

    …It added that trees would be replaced and that, subject to funding in the 2023-24 planting season, it was planning to give away 6,000 to 7,000 trees to residents and community groups, and plant a further 3,000 trees on its own open spaces.


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