My car was in the garage for repairs but rather than take the tube home, a journey of 40 minutes, I preferred to walk, a journey of 3 hours. There was a time when travelling on the underground seemed exciting; you go down in one place and come up in another place, as if by magic. But over the years, in crowded rush hour compartments stopping without warning or explanation, that magic had faded and was gradually replaced by claustrophobia. That was when I learned how to drive.
And without a car for two days I walked home. It was an adventure and I ached for a week but I had the trees for company. I was never sure of their names but by Notting Hill Books on Palace Gardens Terrace I think perhaps these two might be acacia and robinia.
A plane tree at the entrance to Kensington Palace Gardens.
A plane tree at the Russian Embassy.
On the first evening I walked beneath the plane trees along Bayswater Road
often wishing I was on the other side of the fence
as my eyes filled with grit every time the wind of a passing bus or truck blew in my face.
Lancaster Gate is always closed.
But the dappled light is always entrancing.
On the second evening I came through Kensington Gardens by great lime trees
along the North Walk with a beautiful oak
and a magnificent weeping elm
to the Italian Gardens and Westbourne Gate.
On the first evening I walked by a parade of young copper beeches
coughing and sneezing through the forest of Sussex Gardens
with monkey puzzle
and chicken of the woods
and a couple of ginkgo trees on the Old Marylebone Road.
A tree shadow on Marylebone Register Office.
The Green Man
A tree of heaven at Bickenhall Mansions.
With my eyes stinging and my throat tickling it was good to escape the Marylebone Road and sink into the welcome green calm of Regent’s Park. On the second evening I got here by a different route.
From Bayswater Road I walked along Stanhope Terrace by Sussex Square
then Strathearne Place and around Hyde Park Square
where I imagined the sheltering trees watched over children playing ball games,
cycling and skating and playing music and singing songs with their choirs of dogs.
Then Connaught Street, Kendal Street, George Street to Bryanston Square
and an Indian horse chestnut in Montagu Square.
88-110 George Street and a few street trees.
Marylebone High Street and the great Marylebone elm.
A plane tree in the grounds of St Marylebone Church.
Which leads me back to the welcoming trees of Regent’s Park.
And another chicken of the woods.
A paper bark tree with eyes looking back at me.
The Broad Walk
An avenue of Indian horse chestnuts.
The moon at Gloucester Gate.
The sun at Gloucester Gate Bridge.
Pollarded plane trees on Parkway shake their fists at the sky.
A spotlit black locust tree (Robinia pseudoacacia) on Camden Road.
Twin trees of heaven.
The border of Camden and Islington.
A horse chestnut at Holloway Prison.
A wayfaring tree on Parkhurst Road.
A eucalyptus and The Prince Edward.
A tree of heaven on Seven Sisters Road.
A lime tree and an electricity substation. There are few trees on this stretch of the Seven Sisters Road. This feels like the last tree. An electricitree, symbol of deforestation, climate change, icecap meltdown.
The unnameable trees of Finsbury Park.
Along by the New River beneath a row of poplars to Endymion Road.
The entrance to Railway Fields.
A hawthorn street tree on Green Lanes.
The great double ash of Tottenham Green.
And finally a tree house.
Walking home my small brain overflows with too much information. I’m breathing street fumes and particulates and wondering do the London plane trees really absorb pollution like people say? My mind skips to thoughts of climate change and plastic oceans and nuclear waste and all the countless ways we abuse the planet, the failure of global capitalism and the breakdown of democracy and our increasing atomisation, turning inwards to avoid seeing the damage we do to the world. This is just the tip of the iceberg but already I’m overwhelmed; it’s too much for one brain to process. I can’t carry all the bad news in my head. Trees are my consolation; their green brains filter my thoughts and absorb the weight of my anxieties. They can hold the whole world in the net of their branches.