Sunday, 6 August 2017


Bark and Leafy behind bars.

This is one of the oddest experiences so far - choosing a tree to 'follow' in an entirely unfamiliar setting. I find I don't even know how to photograph an urban tree. How do I take a picture without including a whole load of people who don't want to be in it? How do I avoid registration numbers? How many cars can the eye take without exploding?

Three trees opposite The Theatre Royal in Halifax.
And as for context . . . an urban tree lives in several all at the same time. There may be other trees nearby but there are buildings, buses, litter, people too. If I were a tree in Dorset there would me and the sea and the hedgerow and we'd all be in some sort of harmony. Insects would flit from me to the next bush or flower along; no obstacles. But in the middle of a town . . . it's all disjointed. All trees are individuals of course, but those sticking out of the pavement seem too much alone even when planted in a row. Where do the insects go? It's very disconcerting.

Fairy lights looped int he branches of the tree we're following'.
My tree is the middle one. The most difficult to photograph because it's squashed between two others. It's probably the least interesting of the three. It's certainly the least pretty of them. But I chose it because it has lights in its branches. 

In a series of novels about a Greek Village (by Sara Alexi) there's a character called 'Stella'. She's one of several women at the heart of the tale - and at the heart of the community. She runs a little cafe that sells chips, chicken and lemon sauce. And outside her cafe is a tree where she has hung fairy lights. They aren't artfully placed and they aren't specially beautiful but they are a symbol of liberation and an intriguing beacon for hungry locals and visitors. 

The tree we're following with the National HQ of the Halifax Building Society beyond.
The rather overbearing
National Headquarters of the
Halifax Building Society
is on the other side of the road
from 'our tree'.
Stella is a gypsy. At school she was taunted because her mother was a gypsy. As an adult, she discovered her biological father was a gypsy too. While we read this comfortably at home it might seem rather romantic. But in the story, gypsies and non-gypsies live separately and in hostility. Worse, her mother's relations aren't actually very nice people. And worse again her (first) husband is a brute. Stella is gentle and tough and the freedom to stick fairy-lights in the tree outside her cafe is hard won. So, even if they are naff they are a symbol of inner strength and ultimate freedom.

I'll have to go and look at this tree at night. The likelyhood of it giving a sophisticated atmosphere to what Halifax has hopefully designated as 'The Theatre Quarter' is pretty remote. But they may be warm and pretty. And, secretly, we will know it stands for something far beyond itself, even if it is disguised as a rather boring blob between elegant silver birches.

Not that I know what it is.
What is it?

I'm Following a TreeAre You?


Rosemary said...

I think your tree is an alder.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Rosemary. I wondered about that - but then got cold feet because it is nowhere near water . . . but maybe I'm wrong that alder needs to be?

VP said...

Alders do like wet feet but who knows what it's like beneath the pavement? Or did they plant an unsuitable tree? It's certainly alder-like from those leaves in your picture.

Your post has triggered another Chapman family memory - Halifax Building Society Cake! A fruit cake often baked by my MIL using the recipe she clipped from one of Halifax Building Society's newsletters issued decades ago.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Do you have the recipe for that cake, VP?

VP said...

I do - I even blogged it!

ADRIAN said...

I think it Alder if you saw it down it will turn a bright orange. If you don't fancy that and I'm sure the council won't then ask them what it is.

Flighty said...

I feel rather sorry for trees in places like that surrounded by concrete and also caged. I also think that it's an alder. xx

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

VP - may I put the recipe on this blog sometime with a link to the post on Veg Plotting?

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Adrian. I like the idea of asking the council what the tree is. But doubt they would know. I've found that for some questions they look up answers on the internet. For instance, I asked for a direct number for the local job centre. They gave me two numbers - both elicited from the internet, both I'd found on the internet already, and neither of which worked - which is why I turned to the council for info.. I can imagine someone typing in 'middle tree opposite Theatre Royal, Halifax'and coming up with the ten best restaurants near the Theatre Royal in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. (You'll probably get something different cos the internet likes to guess our interests.) To be fair though, they are pretty responsive - especially the very helpful planning department. Last week I contacted the council about a missing wheelie bin which had been recently delivered and immediately stolen. The person I spoke with said it was likely not to have been stolen but to have fallen into the wagon and she would investigate. !!!!!

Hello Flighty. I agree about trees behind railings. Though as long as they are replaced before the tree gets too big for its cage I feel happier with them than with the horrid, corrugated plastic tubes which protect young trees from rabbits and deer and hang around in the countryside for ever after.

Anonymous said...

I'm so pleased you are back in the realm of tree followers!
Nice tree - and quite a clean and civilised street. It will be wonderful if you take a night-time picture with fairy lights - that would be a first for tree following, I think.
Who knew the lights could be so symbolic?
The leaves do look like alder but what an unusual choice for a street tree. Still, if it is you should have some lovely little "cones" and catkins.
Glad the Halifax council is helpful...
All the best :)

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Pat. Yes. The centre of Halifax is very pleasant.

It's difficult to describe Halifax. The large buildings which have uses - like this theatre - are very splendid. But there are many huge buildings with no function. I'm finding it quite hard in the early days of this blog to give the idea both that there are very depressing areas - ex-industry and run-down streets and housing and that the superfluity of massive, even if impressive, structures can sometimes seem overwhelming . . . yet the potential (as is seen by the restoration of the Piece Hall which would otherwise have been pulled down) is immense. Litter - hm. In the centre of town it may be reasonably litter-free - but outside the centre and in the countryside round and about, I've never met anywhere so litter-full. I don't know where it's all coming from!

Phil Slade said...

I agree, I think it's alder. if you look closely you should see bunches of tiny brown bunches of seeds, hard to crack open, or there might be some on the ground. Googgle "Alder seeds."

The wild bird seed crop is established here annually as part of the farm’s Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) agreement. It's what is otherwise known as "set-aside" - uncultivated land in which various wildlife habitats may develop over a number of years, or especially planted and where wide field margins and traditional hedgerow management can help to halt and reverse the decline of bird species. The crop is left throughout the winter and not harvested.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Thanks for the reply about the seed, Phil. I knew of set-aside in a broad sense but hadn't realised it involved this kind of precise management.
One of the good things about following a tree through its seasons is that when the leaves thin out I will be able to see the seed - and the nature of the seeds will, I imagine, be the clincher.

carol l mckenna said...

Fascinating post and love the tree photos ~ they are one of nature's gems I love ^_^

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Glad you enjoy the post, Carol.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

It's hard for a tree to grow all encased in concrete. My sister had an old large tree by her driveway. It grew for over 30 years and it's roots pushed up the sidewalk. So the city came and cut the root back and put in a new flat sidewalk. The beautiful tree died. Then the city told my sister you have to remove it. That cost about $1200

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

That must have been distressing, Carol. Trees pushing up the ground around them can be a double problem; they genuinely create a trip hazard and it genuinely causes distress when they are taken down because of it (or die when they are disturbed). There's a big dispute in Sheffield at present between residents and the company the council has employed to make the pavements safe by removing trees. The residents think the company is fulfilling its 'numbers' obligation by felling perfectly healthy trees which are not in the way. Some people have been arrested trying to protect them. Part of the council's defence is to say how very many trees remain, even after the felling. But people have special relationships with trees. And the tree outside one's front door is completely different from any old tree which is part of a statistic.

Birgitta said...

Interesting post!

Elizabeth Musgrave said...

I am so glad you came to visit and to let me know you were here. What a very interesting move you have made. I know Halifax a little and the northern mill towns near Manchester very well as I was born in Rochdale. I know exactly what you mean about the combination of decay and dilapidation and potential. I am not sure I could live in a town like that any more. I have become addicted to the green and the solitude of rural living and when I run out of the energy needed to live here and run this place I don't want to move far so it would be to a very different welsh market town if I returned to town living at all. It will be fascinating to hear about your new life. My daughter and her family moved near a town in the welsh valleys. It is the sort of place people leave rather than come to and their most difficult journey has been to finding new friends but now, three years on, they have. Good luck. said...

It's an interesting idea with the following Tree.
Greetings from Germany

liz said...

The "street trees" planted (like yours) in the downtown area here in central Kentucky only live about 20 years. No doubt because of the conditions and stress.
It will be fun to see how your alder progresses through the seasons.
I remember the Halifax Building Society, but didn't know they had a special fruit cake!

Fun60 said...

An interesting choice of tree. Can't wait to see it lit up. Do you think the lights are left over from the Christmas display?