Our Street Trees

The Street Trees of Findon Valley

A survey carried out in February 2022, By Matthew Ward,
Environment Officer, Findon Valley Residents’ Association.

The tallest tree in the valley, Beech near the A27 junction

Introduction

Findon Valley was developed for housing from the 1930s to the 50s. All is quite low rise with many bungalows spread along wide, quiet streets either side of the A24. It is bordered by the A27 to the south and Bost Hill to the north. Cissbury Hill and the Gallops with associated woodland, form the eastern and western boundaries. Frequent views towards the surrounding countryside give the area a suburban feel despite the proximity of the busy London Road. There is good access to fields, woodland and downs which is much enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
It is likely that as part of the housing development, trees were planted along the new streets and many of them are still growing today. They further enhance the scene although some have been felled without being replaced and several streets have sparse cover. There has been a policy of tree removal followed by the stump being ground out and then tarmacked over. Roadside trees are the responsibility of West Sussex County Council.
Trees contribute much to the character of Findon Valley and there are some fine specimens. On the A24 which runs through the middle from south to north are some mighty Beech and Oaks. In the side streets it is a different picture with many gaps caused by recent felling due to disease and old age leading to unsafe limbs. It is easy to take remaining trees for granted, despite some tall specimens, somehow trees often go unnoticed.
The benefits of trees to our urban and suburban streets are many and well to the fore in these days when the climate emergency has been recognised. In streets trees offer shade, carbon storage and relief from the hard lines of buildings and roads. Despite being generally appreciated, feelings can change when trees cause problems – real or imaginary. Leaves to clear up in Autumn, excessive shade, roots penetrating drains or lifting pavements are all examples of these “problems”.
In Findon Valley trees enhance the streets and form a visual link to the surrounding downs and woodlands. Despite often being surrounded by tarmac some good specimens have grown, large and small.
The purpose of this survey is to draw attention to these trees and point to the gaps which have occurred. It is only by appreciating what we have that we will care about the future of trees in our streets.

The A24, south to north

From the roundabout forming the junction with the A27 Findon Valley begins as you head north. There are good Beech and Turkey Oaks which appear to have been planted alternately at the same time. The tallest tree in the valley, a fine Beech, is just beyond the Jet petrol station. A narrow grass verge is where most of the trees grow although some are in the tarmac. There are several gaps in the sequence with no replacements in place.
Towards Lime Tree Avenue there is a wider verge and good specimens of Cherry, Norway Maple and two fine Silver Birches, opposite the library and the Free Church. On the verge opposite the parade of shops is evidence of the recent removal of a large tree, the stump remains.
Continuing north, the pattern of Beech and Turkey Oak continues until the junction with Downside Avenue where a wider verge opens up on the east side. Here are a more varied mix of Beech, Ash, Lime and Oak with some tall examples and a rookery in three trees.

The West Side Streets

Downside Avenue – several good Norway Maples, some purple leaved, one which was felled recently (February 2022) was around 70 years old according to a count of the annual rings. Silver Birch and Rowan.
Marshall Avenue – a well treed street with good Sycamore, Ash, Beech and a newly planted Liquidamber.
Vale Drive and Vale Avenue – good Silver Birch, Norway Maple and a few Cherry, many gaps.
Hillview Road – a few Malus and Cherry, many gaps.
Hillview Rise – a good Malus and a large Norway Maple.
Vale Walk – sparse, one damaged Prunus and some Field Maple.
Parham Road – sparse, two good Prunus serrulla? with purple glossy bark. A felled tree beside number 40 with stump left.
Franklands Close – some good cherries, well treed.
Greatham Road – two young Sorbus and medium size Norway Maple and Sycamore.
Wantley Road – blank.

The East Side Streets

Fontwell Close – blank but has verges.
Hurston Close – a good clump of Sycamores, sizable Beech and Robinia
Mayfield Close – blank
Valley Gardens – A good Cedar of Lebanon and Atlantic Cedar on grass near A24.
Allendale Avenue – Four young Silver Birch
The Heights – Three Norway Maples on greens at either end.
Ashfold Avenue and Aldwick Crescent – Blank
Limetree Avenue – A few Cherries and Sorbus
Coombe Rise – A Silver Birch and a few Malus
Cissbury Avenue – two Cherries
Cissbury Gardens – A few Cherries and a Silver Birch
Hollingbury Gardens – A Cherry, some Thorns and two Silver Birch.
Central Avenue – this is the best treed road in the valley, it’s broad grass verges with regular trees make for a very pleasant residential street. There are 22 Norway Maple, 18 Sycamore, 6 Silver Birch, 2 Rowan, 5 Pine, 1 Hawthorn, 1 Tulip Tree (at the junction with the A24) and a newly planted Birch. At the top is a triangle of grass with a clump of 3 Ash trees.
Shepherds Mead – a few scrubby field side trees.
Cissbury Drive – a few Malus and a Silver Birch
Sullington Gardens – Cherries, Maples and a newly planted Acer on two grass verges
Long Meadow – a few Rowan and Sycamore on the field edge.
Hazlehurst Crescent – Some Cherries and three Silver Birch
Maytree Avenue – Some Cherries, Rowans and towards the north end gnarled Hawthorn (Maytrees). Many gaps.
Storrington Rise – Blank.

Species

There are a fair range of species planted in the streets with Beech, Silver Birch, Norway Maple, Sycamore, Pine and Oak being the tallest. Rowan, Cherry (different types), Hawthorn and Field Maple make up most of the medium and smaller specimens.
Silver Birch seem to thrive particularly well and can be seen on verges as well as surrounded by hard surface. They are least likely to lift pavements.

List by most commonly planted
Beech, Fagus sylvatica
Norway Maple, Acer platanoides
Silver Birch, Betula pendula
Oak, mostly Turkey, Quercus cerris
Rowan, Sorbus aucuparia
Sycamore, Acer pseudoplantanus
Flowering Crab Apples, Malus – different types
Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna
Pine, Pinus spp
Cherries, Prunus – at least three types
Field Maple, Acer campestre

The Future

The number of trees in our streets have been steadily reduced for several years, this is mostly due to them being felled without being replaced. The policy of felling followed by grinding out the stump and tarmacking over means that the planting places in pavements are lost.
Where trees have been planted in grass verges, felled trees are not being replaced but potential for replanting remains.
As the trees in our streets get older they become more prone to disease and potentially dangerous. Without being replaced, we will be witnessing the long term loss of trees in our streets.
There is a certain amount of tree surgery going on to shape and make trees safe proving that West Sussex council have some commitment to trees in our streets. Safety measures are a priority, extreme weather is more common these days and where trees overhang roads or buildings their safety must be assessed regularly. Trees are very resilient and there are many suitable species for street planting.
What is lacking is a policy of replacement of old trees and planting for the future. Indeed, the grinding out and tarmacking over makes any planting impossible. A scheme does make planting in suitable places possible but requires a donation of £200 per tree from residents. “Extra heavy standards” are planted with much staking and aftercare necessary. Smaller trees are cheaper initially and more likely to get established without the need for as much watering. The emphasis is on a hefty contribution from residents rather than a commitment to planting by West Sussex council.

A fine Silver Birch on Central Avenue