Ladywell Fields Tree Walk

We'd like to introduce twenty remarkable trees to you in. Use the map below to enjoy this walk through Ladywell Fields.

This content is based on the observations of an enthusiastic amateur. Any corrections and further suggestions will be gratefully received.

1. We start at the northernmost tip, at the entrance on Ladywell Road. Here is the first tree of interest, a Monterey Pine. This originates from California and in spring it has extraordinary flowers. Look out for the Firecrest, a small bird sometimes seen in the tree.

Just beyond the pine is a birch and behind that a young Black Walnut tree. It has large compound leaves that droop downwards. From the summer onwards look out for the walnuts which are green and sit at the leaf joints. They are edible but have very thick shells which require special nutcrackers. There is another, larger, Black Walnut further down by the river, but it is largely hidden from view.
Ladywell Fields has particularly fine Black Poplars which like the moist riverside setting. They are dioecious, meaning there are both male and female trees. You will see several as you walk along the river of the northern fields alongside the hospital.

2. Just before the bridge into the hospital, notice the two large trees to your right, followed by a stump. These are old female Black Poplars with small leaves that flutter in the breeze. Towards the end of May each year they shed a snow storm of seeds, forming a white carpet beneath.

3. Walk further along and you will find more Poplar trees to your left along the river. These have larger leaves are probably Hybrid Black Poplars. 
4. As you reach the footbridge at the southern perimeter of the hospital grounds, cross to admire the trees on the eastern bank. Downstream is a Mimosa, with tiny fern-like leaves, although it is currently somewhat obscured by ivy. It originates from Australia and probably likes this sheltered position. 
5. Upstream is a fine row of Grey Poplars growing along the river bank. Because they are growing so close together they have become very tall and bend easily in the wind. They have beautiful silvery grey bark.
6. Continue from the bridge to the playground. Standing in the playground is what used to be the tallest tree in the park, a fine female Black Poplar, probably a hybrid. In the summer of 2015 she was given a radical pollarding after a branch dropped on the playground. She should recover from this in a few years and resume her annual snow of seeds each June, covering the playground and creating a magical effect for children.
7. As you cross from the northern field into the middle field via the spiral bridge, you will immediately see another fine female Black Poplar in front of you. She also snows in early June. Keep left and follow the path along the riverside.

8. You will soon see a Dawn Redwood or Water Fir. These have the distinctive red bark but do not grow very tall like the Giant Redwoods. Again, it likes the moist soil of the river-side.
9. Next is the Lewisham Elm, the only tree in the park with its own sign and designated one of The Great Trees of London. Since Dutch Elm Disease struck the UK in the late 1960s only a few mature elms survive and this is one. The disease actually strikes all elms, not just Dutch ones, so it is uncommon to see any elm over 20 years old. The sign says this is a rare variety ‘Klemmer’, or Flanders Elm. Some experts think that it is actually a European White Elm, but this is also rare and makes its survival no less remarkable. Look for the beautiful confetti-like seeds in spring.
10. Next along this path is a fine row of London Plane Trees. The London Plane is not in fact a native, but thought to be a cross between the Oriental Plane and the American Plane. It was widely planted across London in the 19th century when urban pollution made it difficult for any tree to survive. Its waxy leaves and peeling bark, combined with its ability to grow in very poor soil made it the ideal tree for Victorian London. 
11. As you pass underneath the railway bridge from the middle field into the southern field, on the far bank is a gap where a Crimean Lime stood until Easter 2016 when it blew down in a storm. They are often said to the be ugliest tree in the park, especially in winter when its drooping, tangled branches are easily visible. This one has now mostly been chipped and the wood chips used to mulch the trees in the community orchard.
12. Continue to follow the river upstream and you will see a fine pair of London Plane trees to your left.

13.Then after the events area, notice the Ash tree ahead and to your right, just before the playground. It is an odd tree, as the bark changes half way up. It appears that someone has grafted a Manna Ash onto a Common Ash tree, although it is not clear why.

14. Just beyond the playground you will see the Community Orchard. The first trees were planted in 2011 when the park was renovated. They are now maturing and in the summer you should see fruit on the frees. There are apples, pears, plums and cherries. A sign on the far side tells you when it is time to pick.
15. Turn back at this point and take the path running diagonally up the hill, between a row of cherry trees. In front of you on either side of the path are a fine pair of English Oak trees. They have grown without obstruction and have developed that classic oak shape which is so beautiful. They probably mark the line of an old hedgerow from the days when this was Kent countryside.
16. From the centre of the southern field, walk downhill towards the river. As you turn, in the distance you will see the remains of a row of Lombardy Poplars along the boundary between the park and the school. They are tall and narrow trees, with the typical fluttering leaves of the poplar.
17. Carry on past the Golden Weeping Willows, which at first seem to be growing a little too far from the river. However as regular park users know, there is in fact a small underground stream running down this hill, which presumably gives them all the water they need. The stream is the reason the path at the bottom often floods in wet weather. 
18. As you reach the river turn left, along the path on the near side. You may notice that growing near a lamp-post, up against the fence, is a Field Maple, probably also a old field boundary tree. The path then takes you under the railway bridge. 
19. As you come out into the field, keep to the path as it turns back towards the river. As it passes close to the river, look for a special tree, the Caucasian Wingnut. This species originates from Iran and is only occasionally found in parks. This one is on the river bank itself, a few metres from the path. In summer it has catkins up to 50cm long which turn into tresses of small green nuts. 
20. Continue along the path following the river. Just before the backwater in the river you will see another poplar, this time a Balsam Poplar. It has larger spade shaped leaves which feel a bit waxy to the touch. 
As you continue you will also notice more Black Poplars on this stretch, planted in a row that is not straight. They probably follow the old course of the river. These are a particular variety known as the Manchester Poplar and are all males. In mid-spring look up and you will see their tops covered in red catkins. 


The Ladywell Field tree walk ends here--we hope you enjoyed this little guided tour.

Please fee free to add your own observations and discoveries.