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An inspiring tale of Richmond’s Trees

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

An inspiring tale of Richmond’s Trees

Mesmerizing was the walk among the deer family to Richmond Park on 2,500 acres through the Petersham Meadows and Pembroke Lodge next to Bertrand Russell’s House and the adjoining Platinum Jubilee Woodland, created in 2023 that house newly planted 70 trees on 4 acres of land ...

An inspiring tale of Richmond’s Trees


Prof Jyoti Marwah recounts her green sojourn through The three royal parks: Richmond, Bushy, and Hampton Park in London

Trees and plants are central to human existence as they tell many a story of life and people over the ages and are conceived as symbols of association with great personalities. Some by way of example are the deities in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism that are seated on a Lotus, Buddha’s Bodhi tree of wisdom, Mahavira’s Ashoka tree of enlightenment, the 24 trees associated with the Tritankaras and interestingly, the ancient image of a plant growing from a woman’s womb. Trees are there to improve the ecosystem- water, air quality, temperature, human mental health, and spiritual well-being by working on the brain/glymphatic system to cleanse the central nervous system above all trees create essential habitats for supporting the local biodiversity. Thus, for an Indian, trees have been associated with godliness and charm throughout life and even after death. However, the need arises to inquire into the aporias existing in this respect as the relevance of trees in the life of an Indian continues even today but with apathy and abominable disrespect.

The London borough of Richmond upon Thames has many green spaces with over 100 parks and open spaces and is one of the greenest spaces in London. The three royal parks: Richmond, Bushy, and Hampton Park are home to veteran and ancient native and exotic trees while the Kew Botanical Gardens house a diverse collection of temperate trees of the world.

Disturbed by the condition and neglect of Nature’s bounty in the Indian scenario, the place that rested my quest was the Richmond Greens. On several visits to my daughter in London at Glenmore House on Richmond Hill, the first delight was Terrace Gardens with a multitude of green trees, aromatic plants, meadows, squirrels, and foxes that emerged in the night. Mesmerizing was the walk among the deer family to Richmond Park on 2,500 acres through the Petersham Meadows and Pembroke Lodge next to Bertrand Russell’s House and the adjoining Platinum Jubilee Woodland, created in 2023 that house newly planted 70 trees on 4 acres of land by David Attenborough. These trees have been selected to offer resilience against climate change and include Oaks, Dutch Elm, Small Leaved Lime, and Sweet Chestnut. A hedgerow and broad shelter belt of native species have been planted around the woodland boundary with nectar and berry-bearing trees and shrubs to provide shelter and food for small mammals, birds, and invertebrates.

These include Field Maple, Hawthorn, Hazel, and the like. In this fencing around the Platinum Jubilee Woodland, young and old citizens participated. It was a delight to learn of participation in the event by my daughter who is a volunteer at the park and granddaughter Alaina who is a young member of the Royal Institutions. The following visit to Isabella Plantation which is a 40-acre woodland garden, rich in trees and shrubs also on  Richmond Hill, was a visual treat. There were not only myriad flowers but a well-crafted area for trees that lifted the body and the soul. Rhododendrons of various hues, including the Himalayan variety first planted in 1831, made me excited to find the red Buransh there in the Isabella Plantation.

As we walked through these gardens and the two pathways along the Thames it was a treat to see trees tagged with information to undertake a tree trail. A tag on a huge Ginkgo Biloba also known as the Maidenhair tree caught my attention, I have held this tree in high regard and read much about it but never had the good fortune to see one. It is the only fossil tree that has existed for 200 million years, has no ancestors, and is the only one of its kind today. Its genetics are not being changed even today and it can withstand pollution and climatic degradation. A noteworthy fact that needs to be highlighted is that after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the trees that regenerated and survived were the Ginkgo trees. Ginkgo Biloba was a preserve of the Chinese and later grown in Japanese Temples and Korea as well as Indonesia. Europeans have been growing Gingko trees for the last three hundred years. In Mussoorie, there are three trees two at Company Bagh and one at Padmani Niwas on The Mall Road.

The next interesting experience was at the terrace gardens where we were greeted by a foul repulsive smell, soon to understand that it was the maturing fruit of a female Ginkgo Biloba tree. It was a thrilling experience. The one on the towpath which was seen earlier along the Thames and was tagged was a male tree that does not bear fruit. The book titled ‘Richmond’s Trees: An Exciting Trail of Discovery’ gives a guided trail of the trees on Richmond Hill. The trail covers 3 km of tagged 30 trees and gives an interesting one-page account about the tree. The trail can be covered and completed in 90 minutes. This publication got me thinking if back home each one of us could initiate and undertake a study of this kind to be followed up with a publication, it would be a worthwhile effort.

Resultant records about the history of the trees that we associate with in our daily life could be an effective deterrent to cutting and destroying this heritage in the future. It’s interesting to introduce Pahari Wilson or Shikari Wilson also known as King of Harshil (Frederick Wilson) in the 19th century who inadvertently or advertently changed the Indian mindset to destroy trees along the Yamuna Valley in the Himalaya region by pulling down large tracts of forest land in and around Harshil to become the richest man in British India. He even minted coins in his name. He later moved to Mussoorie in Uttarakhand and regretted the devastation but by then he had created the destructive mindset of the Indians that continues with unrestrained ubiquitous practice. Environmentalist Sundar Lal Bhaguna, leader of the Chipko Movement had held Wilson responsible for setting deforestation into motion and gradual extinction of endemic wildlife. Now, the British own this green heritage as a legacy that they acquired from all over the world where they ruled, and we as travellers there learn to appreciate what was once ours.


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