On Woodstreet, in the heart of the City of London, a solitary tree stands proudly between old and new buildings. The Plane was planted in 1821 in the Churchyard of St. Peter’s and in 1835 was said “to occupy the space of a house”. Then years later two rooks’ nests were observed. Clauses in the shops’ leases prevent its destruction. The churchyard were the tree grows is mostly used by city-folk to smoke cigarettes in the short breaks punctuating their busy and purposeful lives. The tree towers over the old building and extends its branches, occupying all precious space that is left. The resilience of the tree in this neighbourhood that is entirely dedicated to exploitation and commerce is remarkable. By following the tree and its surroundings over a period of a year, light will be shed on this strange co-existence.
I am not the first to give special attention to this tree, as demonstrated by a poem by the English romantic poet Wordsworth.
The Reverie of Poor Susan
“At the corner of Wood Street, when daylight appears,
Hangs a Thrush that sings loud, it has sung for three years:
Poor Susan has passed by the spot, and has heard
In the silence of morning the song of the Bird.
Tis a note of enchantment; what ails her? She sees
A mountain ascending, a vision of trees;
Bright volumes of vapour through Lothbury glide,
And a river flows on through the vale of Cheapside.
Green pastures she views in the midst of the dale,
Down which she so often has tripped with her pail;
And a single small cottage, a nest like a dove’s,
The one only dwelling on earth that she loves.
She looks, and her heart is in heaven: but they fade,
The mist and the river, the hill and the shade:
The stream will not flow, and the hill will not rise,
And the colours have all passed away from her eyes!”
William Wordsworth 7 April 1770 – 23 April 1850)