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Saving the Sherwood Library Cherry Trees

30 April 21 words: Clare Stevens
photos: Clare Stevens

A week is a long time in activism. This time last week Sherwood’s glorious array of flowering cherry trees seemed doomed. Today – thanks to the collective people power of the Sherwood community and beyond – it’s looking increasingly hopeful that they can be saved. Sherwood resident and local author Clare Stevens takes up the story.

I love trees. I’m unashamedly soppy about them. I don’t go as far as hugging them, although in these COVID times they’re about the only living thing it’s permissible to hug. I do, however, do my little bit to try and save them wherever I see them under threat. If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, I still mourn for it.

I’m a proud Nottingham local now, but I grew up in Somerset, and as a kid I lived my life around trees. I climbed them, broke bones falling out of them, built treehouses in them, basked in their shade in summer and sheltered under their cover when it rained. I had my first kiss with my childhood boyfriend – aged seven – in the cavity of a hollow tree.

In those innocent days, I thought that trees would last forever. I was wrong.

In the intervening decades UK trees have disappeared at an alarming rate and since 1990 we’ve lost more than eighty million hectares of primary forest worldwide.  Everywhere we look, it seems, life-giving trees are lost to so-called ‘progress’.

For every petition I sign to save trees somewhere, the algorithm gives me more, and it can feel relentless – and hopeless. Each tree felled another nail in the coffin of Planet Earth.

Trees give us the air we breathe. They mitigate against climate change, cut pollution (air and noise), reduce flooding and create complete eco-systems supporting thousands of creatures. They increase wellbeing and boost mental health. A group of trees together is greater than the sum of its parts – recent research suggests that trees even talk to each other. When you see a line of flowering cherries moving in the breeze, it’s like a synchronised dance.

In our little microcosm of society that is Sherwood, the very name suggests trees. But our street trees are disappearing. About six years ago, I campaigned to save three healthy trees at the bottom of Hood Street, I got them a three-year reprieve before they were unceremoniously felled. We were promised another tree to replace them. We’re still waiting. In the meantime they remain as stumps, bravely sprouting new growth.

Action Week

Artist David Hockney talks about Action Week – a week, usually in April, when everything bursts into bloom.  If ever there was an Action Week – it’s the week that was.

Last Wednesday on a glorious sunny evening en route to an alfresco glass of vino in Bridget Bordeaux, my partner and I passed the flowering cherry trees that flank Spondon Street carpark. This glorious array of trees behind Sherwood library puts on a fabulous show each year. I spent a while basking in their beauty and took lots of photos.  

So when I read a post on Facebook that evening which said ‘enjoy the cherry trees – next year they’ll be gone,’ I cried. They were to be lost as part of the Sherwood Library/Spondon Street redevelopment project – already approved by the council and -  ironically - billed as an eco development.

I’d heard about plans to redevelop Sherwood library but naively thought they were just that – plans to develop the library site. I had no idea these plans affected the cherry trees. I contacted the person who posted, who said it was a done deal. There was nothing anyone could do.

Although the developers apparently said they’d ‘try’ to save some of the flowering cherries, nobody held out much hope. The trees, according to one resident, were ‘as good as gone already.’

But such defeatism didn’t seem to be in the spirit of Sherwood. You can rely on the good folk of our urban village to get behind a just cause (remember how we clubbed together to bid for two of those giant bird sculptures back in 2018?), so when local hero and breadmaking entrepreneur Rob Mackinder stepped forward to start a petition and poster campaign people jumped on it and began signing and sharing in earnest.

The trees are a beautiful part of my daily life living just off Mansfield Street. If it’s set in stone that they’re keeping the trees then that’s great news. After all, they can’t claim to be building a bunch of eco houses then rip down loads of trees contributing to the environment


On Saturday, we were encouraged to post pictures of trees in bloom for #BlossomWatch day. Such a cruel irony when our own cherry trees were apparently doomed. It seemed an appropriate day to tweet the developers and tag local media.

In a double irony, elsewhere in the city there’s been outrage because kids have vandalised some sapling cherry trees gifted by Japan, when in Sherwood we were allegedly facing an act of corporate vandalism to our own mature trees.

Within an hour of Rob posting the petition on Sunday evening, one hundred had signed. in two days, that number had quadrupled. On day four, we hit the 1k mark.

On Monday, we got a group of (socially distanced, rule-of-six compliant) residents together for a photocall for the Nottingham Post. BBC East Midlands Today asked for footage while the blossom was still in full bloom.

On Tuesday, I was sorting logistics of the BBC interview when we got wind that the developers had changed the plans. We put the interview on hold while we tried to establish the facts. BBC contacted Hockley Developments who told them "NO trees will be lost to the development, some will be relocated but MOST will stay where they are."

We’re awaiting a full statement from the developers, however I’m told ‘they are confident to go on the record with the information that no cherry trees will be destroyed’. Whether or not they were already working on this – or had a Plan B on the back burner in case of public opposition - I’m sure that mounting pressure from a 1.3k (and counting) signature petition, public poster campaign and media enquiries must have helped.

A note of cautious optimism sounded among residents when they heard the news. Alex Kuster, 27, says: "The trees are a beautiful part of my daily life living just off Mansfield Street. If it’s set in stone that they’re keeping the trees then that’s great news. After all, they can’t claim to be building a bunch of eco houses then rip down loads of trees contributing to the environment."

Of course, we still need to keep a close eye on what happens, but for now, we’ll take this as a win for people power.

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