1. Built environment
May 19, 2020updated 29 Jul 2021 11:52am

New app encourages Londoners to pay more attention to trees on their daily walk

By Jonn Elledge

The big news in the UK today is that we’re starting to get a sense of quite how much damage the pandemic has already done to the economy. Figures released by the Department of Work & Pensions this morning show that the number of people claiming unemployment benefits leapt by 69.1% in April – the largest jump ever recorded – taking the claimant rate to the highest level seen since 1996. 

Meanwhile, the Resolution Foundation says we’re experiencing a “u-shaped living standards crisis”, in which older and younger workers are likely to be hardest hit. New research from the thinktank found that just over a third of 18-24 year olds, and just under that proportion of workers in their early 60s, are now receiving less pay than they did at the start of the year. That compares to less than a quarter of workers aged 35-49.

All this is terribly depressing, of course, so let’s talk about something else. One of the cheerier corners of my Twitter feed for the last couple of days has concerned TreeTalk, a sort of website/app/augmented reality thing which aims to get Londoners interested in the greenery outside their window. Here’s the blurb:

The Coronavirus has changed our lifestyles. More people are now staying at home and taking their exercise close to where they live.

At TreeTalk, we encourage Londoners to look more closely at their streets and to explore, discover and identify the trees most local to them.

Have you ever wondered what that tree outside of your window is? Or the tree that flowers once a year at the bottom of your road? Now is your chance to find out by creating a walk above or exploring our map!

Don’t be put off by the marketing speak, because the results are rather wonderful. For a start, TreeTalk offers a clickable map of all London’s trees, which will tell you about those on your street…

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…and which, as a bonus, offers some insight into which boroughs aren’t that keen on open data:

Poor show, Hackney.

The really cool feature, though, is that you can put in any London address, and the site will automatically generate a walk for you, complete with information about the trees you’ll pass on your way. Here’s its suggested walk around the New Statesman’s offices:

The accompany commentary provides a helpful guide to no fewer than 20 different types of tree that walk would take you past, as well as the addresses of assorted pubs and cafes you could stop off at on the way if only they weren’t all closed due to coronavirus.

The whole thing is a lovely way of changing the way we relate to the city around us, and also of livening up your daily walk. Worth checking out.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.


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