The ancient mulberry tree in Sayes Court Park on Evelyn Street, believed to have been planted by Peter the Great, has been put at risk by the loss of a large section of its trunk. Two founder members of the Sayes Court Gardens CIC, who are campaigning to have the park restored to its former glory as part of the Convoys Wharf redevelopment, came across the damage when they visited the site last weekend.
One large branch - about a quarter of the tree - has fallen off the prop which was supporting it, and broken fully away from the trunk. The tree is surrounded by a low fence which is supposed to protect it from damage, but visitors to the park climb on the low branches to harvest the mulberries.
The story was reported in the South London Press last week.
Updates: 22 August 2013
Sayes Court – London's Lost Garden
London's Lost Garden has posted about the Mulberry tree, with some interesting details on its history. Author Karen Liljenberg ends her post thus, "If the Deptford High St anchor symbolizes the area’s dockland and maritime past, you could argue that the Sayes Court mulberry tree is an icon of its land-based history. Despite the press headline declaring that the mulberry “faces the chop” and can’t be saved, with some well-deserved tlc, it surely can. Even so, with an eye to the future, and since it is easy to propagate mulberries, Lewisham Council really should see to that this autumn. Oh, and let’s hope they look after any cuttings better than the one planted in the adjoining border that died of neglect recently…"
Grasshoppers and Ghost Gardens
The Secret Garden Project (funded by Up Projects) recently staged some events in Deptford, led by artist Rebecca Beinart, who set out to explore the history and botany of Sue Godfrey Nature Park next to Crossfields Estate on Deptford Church St. The nature park was established in 1984 after a lengthy campaign by local residents, and named after one of those residents, who sadly died in a bicycle accident on Deptford Church Street. Rebecca's project included workshops on making clay medicine bottles to contain herbal remedies made from herbs and plants growing in the nature reserve. But firstly, she took participants on a walk from the food growing project on Crossfields Estate to Pepys Estate to discover "hidden pockets of green" in the area.
After viewing Convoys Wharf through the security gates, the walkers came upon Sayes Court Garden in Grove Street in a very timely fashion to find the Sayes Court Garden team at the 300 year old Mulberry tree, having just discovered its plight. The team explained to the walkers what had happened and what their project is about.
Malcolm Cadman from Pepys Community Forum then spoke about the Convoys Wharf redevelopment before leading the walkers to John Evelyn Community Garden on Pepys Estate, where residents are growing fruit trees and vegetables and honing their gardening skills and knowledge. Their gardening project was begun in 2005. The group were treated to a healthy wholefood feast around the garden's community table, courtesy of the Secret Garden Project, and the Sayes Court Garden team were pleased to find so much support for their project. Presently, they are included in the Hutchison Whampoa masterplan, but not all of their requests have been met. That would involve the developer making some adjustments to their masterplan to make more space for this important heritage scheme.