Monday, 22 February 2010

Trees in Brighton - an earlier opinion.

The recent successful campaign to save the Clyde Road plane trees reminds me that people did not always feel so strongly about urban trees. Here is an extract from "Sunny Brighton" by the Victorian nature writer Richard Jefferies (1848-1887). He lived at 3 Lorna Road for a few years after 1882.  The house bears a commemorative plaque.


"A demand has been made for trees, to plant the streets and turn them into boulevards for shade, than which nothing could be more foolish. It is the dryness of the place that gives it its character.  . . . . . . Trees are not wanted in Brighton; it is the peculiar glory of Brighton to be treeless. Trees are the cause of damp, they suck down moisture, and fill a circle round them with humidity. Places full of trees are very trying in spring and autumn even to robust people, much more so to convalescents and delicate persons. Have nothing to do with trees, if Brighton is to retain its value. Glowing light, dry, clear, and clean air, general dryness--these are the qualities that rendered Brighton a sanatorium; light and glow without oppressive moist heat; in winter a clear cold. Most terrible of all to bear is cold when the atmosphere is saturated with water. If any reply that trees have no leaves in winter and so do not condense moisture, I at once deny the conclusion; they have no leaves, but they condense moisture nevertheless. This is effected by the minute twigs, thousands of twigs and little branches, on which the mists condense, and distil in drops. Under a large tree, in winter, there is often a perfect shower, enough to require an umbrella, and it lasts for hours. Eastbourne is a pleasant place, but visit Eastbourne, which is proud of its trees, in October, and feel the damp fallen leaves under your feet, and you would prefer no trees."

His feelings may have been somewhat coloured by his suffering from tuberculosis throughout his life and which accounted for his early death. I am glad that over the intervening 125 years his opinions do not seem to have been extensively followed.

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