Grand historical designs
In the 1660s Charles II commissioned the planting of several avenues in Greenwich Park which included sweet (Spanish) chestnut trees and elm trees. Louis XIV, the French king at the time, allowed André Le Nôtre (his head gardener and designer of the magnificent gardens at The Palace of Versailles) to create a masterplan for Greenwich Park. Le Nôtre designed a Baroque-style garden in front of the Queen's House. This formal garden or ‘parterre’ was set out within banked landscaping and framed by avenues of trees which channel the view from the Royal Observatory towards The Thames, right up to Blackheath Avenue. Greenwich Park is unique in being the only UK park landscaped by the famous Le Nôtre.
Cycle of life
Over the centuries the tree avenues have been replaced as trees grew old and died. In the 1950s the tree avenue along Blackheath Avenue was replanted with horse chestnut trees and in the 1970s diseased elms along the park’s lower parterre banking in front of the Queen’s House and The Avenue roadway were replaced with lime, turkey oaks and beech trees.
However, these avenues are now at threat from new pests and disease: a disease called bleeding canker which infects horse chestnut trees, and a fungal-like disease called Phytophtora is attacking sweet chestnut trees. Many of the turkey oaks and beech trees are damaged and in poor condition. Many trees in these avenues have already died and without taking action now, these tree avenues would continue to decline and die. We need to diversify the species in the tree avenues with disease and pest-resistant trees if they are to survive.
Planting new trees for generations to enjoy
Trees will be replanted in a long-term phased project. They will be sourced from UK nurseries and aged between 15-30 years in order to have the best immediate impact. Sweet Chestnuts are currently being grown under contract using seeds collected from the park’s ancient trees. The phased project will see hundreds of new trees planted in Greenwich Park over four years. Work will begin towards the end of 2020 and be completed by 2024.
Turkey oak and beech trees along the diseased and damaged western and eastern parterre banks, lining the view of the Queens House, will be expertly removed over four years, and replanted with limes and disease-resistant elms. The limes chosen have proved resistant to damage by squirrels too. Diseased, damaged, dying and poor-quality trees will be removed and large, mature trees will remain. Overall, the park will gain around 90 new trees in addition to replacing the damaged trees.