Tree lover John Ashwell – The man who made an ‘urban jungle’ green

Thursday, 24th November 2011


Published: 24 November 2011

AN olive grove has been created in King’s Cross by a man who has spent 10 years planting trees in his neighbourhood.

John Ashwell said he just wanted to make the area greener.

“I grew up in Africa with greenery all about me and I just got used to it,” he said.

“Although I like living in the urban jungle – that’s why I chose to live in King’s Cross – I have a consciousness of the importance of trees being around and I really wanted it to be more of a real green jungle too.”

Mr Ashwell, of Wharfdale Road, added: “A lot of youths are so disconnected from nature. For them, I think, being aware of trees growing, of the greening of an urban jungle, changes their perception of their environment.

“It has been amazing to see that at the beginning there was a lot of vandalism. People were attacking the young saplings but over the years their presence seems to have worked on a positive subliminal level and people have come to respect them.”

Mr Ashwell raised money for the trees by himself – and was then supported by the council.

He has planted double-blossoming cherry trees, a grove of olive trees on one of the back streets and the slow-growing Japanese ginkgo – the only plant to survive Hiroshima.

Mr Ashwell says it should do quite well in the pollution of King’s Cross.

Funding, however, is running out. He said: “Money is reduced and is allocated to places that really need greening, which is right – and we are no longer a place bereft of greenery.”

This month, two of the original trees planted in Wharfdale Road were blown over by wind – but within a week Mr Ashwell had raised more than was needed to replace them.

The extra money will pay for a plaque recognising the generosity of the community.

It will have an extract from Lost, by David Wagoner: “If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you, You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows. Where you are. You must let it find you.”

Mr Ashwell said: “These trees have been gifted to the public realm by residents of King’s Cross – let’s now mark that the residents have invested in their area.”

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