Trees on the Common

Introdcution and Overview

The tree planting on the main Common has been kept to the perimeter with the exception of a small avenue leading to the buildings by the river and a denser infilling of Butt Green to soften the surrounding urban development. The 2001 Conservation Plan said that “with a few notable exceptions the condition of the trees on the Common is generally poor”. It went on to say that “there is considerable scope for enhancing the aesthetic quality of the Common and its setting, particularly in relation to the tree planting which is so important to its character”.

Many trees on the Common were felled in the decade following the Conservation Plan. A few replacements were planted with the help of funding by FoMC and the Cambridge Preservation Society. The 2009-14 Management Plan for the Common lamented the diminishing stock of trees on the Common and made the point that “the management of the trees on Midsummer Common requires careful planning and specialist knowledge of the site and the trees already present”.

So in 2010 the City Council embarked on a large consultation exercise to gauge public opinion on a replacement planting programme. Close to 300 people responded and the Council came up with a programme that would aim “to maintain and enhance a healthy tree stock on Midsummer Common and Jesus Green for present and future generations” and “sustain and enhance the existing local historic and important landscape character, of which the trees are a key part”. This could be achieved by “introducing a long-term tree planting and replacement strategy. By planting trees to a positive, structured layout supported by a management plan we can ensure that future generations will enjoy these treasured resources”.

The council allocated about £50,000 for the scheme which resulted in 43 new tree plantings, 7 trees felled and replaced and 3 trees relocated. The new trees were a mixture of horse chestnuts, weeping willows, silver limes, London planes and black poplars.

There are now more than a hundred trees growing on Midsummer Common. Over 40 of these are on Butt Green comprising a mixture of horse chestnut, London plane, common lime, silver pendent lime, Norway maple, common walnut, wych elm and Huntingdon elm. When built in 1890, Victoria Avenue divided what was Midsummer Common into two halves and the area to the west of the road became known formally as Jesus Green. The Council planted 85 chestnut trees on either side of the new road. The trees along the river are predominantly white willow of various ages and condition with one golden weeping willow. They are part of the important Hayling Way willow habitat extending from Waterbeach to Cambridge. London planes have also been planted along the river and are now impressive specimens at about 80 years old. Other trees include rowan, grey sallow, silver birch, field maple, common lime, crimean lime, common hornbeam and black poplar. The Southern boundary is predominately silver lime and silver pendent lime but there is common lime, Crimean lime, silver birch, horse chestnut, tree of heaven and common walnut.

Cambridge City Council has a Citywide Tree Strategy for 2016-2026 in which it aims to sustainably manage its own trees and foster a resilient tree population. In responding to the impacts of climate change, the Council will no longer restrict new plantings to ‘native’ trees. The recent planting of a dawn redwood on the Common bears witness to this change in policy.

Location and Profile of Trees