By News Reporters

Forty years ago Dutch elm disease swept through Britain killing millions of trees. Now a conservation charity which helped bring elm trees back to the streets of Fitzrovia has won an award for its short film about London elms.

The Conservation Foundation has won the 2013 Creative Award for its short film The A to Z of London Elms in the annual RE:LEAF Awards, organised by the GLA and the Forestry Commission. The Foundation’s Director David Shreeve was presented with the award by BBC World Editor John Simpson at a reception in City Hall on 15 May. 

Usually The Conservation Foundation is the one giving out the awards for positive environmental awareness. “The Foundation has lost track of the number of awards we have presented over the years but in this, our 30th anniversary year, it is great to receive one for ourselves,” said David Shreeve.

In April 2011 broadcaster Alan Titchmarsh planted an elm tree to mark the completion of new tree planting in Bolsover Street in Fitzrovia as part of the W1W Tree Planting Initiative and supported by The Conservation Foundation’s Ulmus londinium project.

The A to Z of London Elms shows many uses to which elms have been put. There have been poems, songs and paintings; all conveying that elms are much more than just trees and despite the loss of so many through disease and development, they are not forgotten. Many elms still thrive in London having been resistant to disease and are a vital part of the city’s biodiversity and essential to the survival of the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.  

Elm is woven into London’s history and among the film’s highlights are the, old London Bridge, elms in art, streets with “elm” in their name, a house made of elm and the city’s medieval waterpipes. Elm also played a part in one of London’s notorious institutions: the Tyburn hanging tree, which stood where Marble Arch is today.

As part of the Ulmus londininum project, The Conservation Foundation’s elm planting programme is providing young trees to London places with ‘elm’ in their names, as well as to parks and public spaces and some high profile plantings are also planned.

The A to Z of London Elms is produced by Camila Ruz and edited by Garry Brown, it is available free online to schools and non-profit organisations and the DVD may be ordered from the Foundation for a £5 donation to cover postage and packing. The three minute highlights and details of how to order the 14 minute length film are here.

The Conservation Foundation has been involved with elms for over thirty years, at first encouraging the replanting of lost trees with hybrid, resistant varieties and later propagating new ones from native elms which appear to have resisted Dutch elm disease, as part of the Great British Elm Experiment. These young trees are available to those who would like to take part in the experiment to see if they have inherited a resistance from their ‘parent’ trees. Details of saplings already planted and how to join The Great British Elm Experiment can be found at The Conservation Foundation.

Spring is the best time to spot elms when they are in blossom and members of the public are asked to add their sightings to the Natural History Museum’s online tree map.


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