A Different View

London's pollarded plane trees as seen from the coach window

I've explored the cheaper options for getting to London lately as I've been tempted up there quite a lot in March. As a result, I've enjoyed a different view of our capital from the bus compared to my usual train journey.

Highlights are a quick glimpse of Chiswick House, plus the trip along the Thames Embankment and a view of the boat houses moored on the river, even a Thames barge last week. Then we go past Chelsea Physic Garden and the Royal Hospital grounds with the latter looking quite calm compared to RHS showtime. It's a surprise to see the Chelsea pensioners in the local Tesco Express dressed in their workaday blue uniform instead of the red finery we're used to.

Spotting the Thames boat houses made me itch to capture their varied gardens for my Unusual Front Gardens series, as does the green wall I spotted on the side of the Porsche showroom as we whisked through Chiswick. I've yet to find the best opportunity to photograph these as I've either been sitting on the wrong side or the bus raced past them too quickly.

However, last Wednesday's tea-time snarl of rush-hour traffic gave me plenty of time to ponder London's plane trees. It was their seed balls which grabbed my attention first as they lent an out-of-season festive air to the streets. You can just about see a few of their baubles in the photo at the top of this post.

Even though I've photographed the plane trees at the Inner Temple Gardens previously, I hadn't really appreciated just how tall they are. Seeing them next to street after street of fine houses and how effortlessly they dwarf them brought this realisation sharply into focus.

I don't particularly like pollarded trees, but somehow in last week's stark evening light they seemed just right for where they are. I was struck by how each tree was like a giant hand with the knobbliest of fingers. These must have been trimmed back to their 'knuckles' over the winter. As my friend Helen says, "They always remind me of fists being shaken at the sky."

London is famous for its plane trees. They manage to thrive in polluted air as their bark regularly sloughs off the worst of what the tree has absorbed. They don't mind constricted roots and can last for hundreds of years. However, the pollarded version means they're relatively high maintenance and the threat of disease in recent years means they're being replaced (if at all) by other options such as silver birch.

It'll be a shame if these trees suffer the same fate. They're already a firm favourite on my alternative way home.


  1. I don't like to see big trees cut back so hard either. I used to live in an area with enormous houses, and as you say, the magnificent trees would soar above the three storey buildings and in the summer they would form the most wonderful green shady tunnel up the road. They really were beautiful. But then the council took to hacking them back really hard. It is such a shame, the whole effect has been ruined.

    1. I first saw these trees jutting above the houses before we got to the view I photographed. It was seeing them like that which made me realise how tall they are. On balance I prefer to have these rather than no trees at all. I've seen a lot more pollarding in the continental cities I've visited, we seem to prefer our trees to 'roam' the streets in a more unhindered fashion here in the UK.

  2. What a wonderful photo of London; love it! London is one of my favorite cities; how can it not be, according to Samuel Johnson, eh? -smile-

    1. Hello and welcome to Veg Plotting :) I'm glad you like the photo - the scene's a bit off the usual London trail, but it's unmistakeably London all the same

  3. Trees are great assets and so beautiful.

  4. Looks all too familiar to me! Next time, make a visit to Borough Market at London Bridge tube station. Worth the trip. xx

    1. Brilliant - thanks for the tip Matron :) I can't wait for my next trip to London, so I can explore!

  5. For some reason, the Horlicks factory is a train journey highlight :)


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