This winter the Friends of Crabtree Fields have been busy planting native trees to increase the amount of greenery, biodiversity, and habitat for birds, in one of the few truly green public open spaces in Fitzrovia.

Just some of the saplings that were planted by volunteers at Crabtree Fields public open space. Photo: Friends of Crabtree Fields.

Over a hundred saplings were planted by volunteers in November and December, thanks to a gift of trees from the Woodland Trust and The Conservation Volunteers — part of a nationwide campaign to plant more trees.

The following species of deciduous, native trees were planted to create hedgerows in the park: English oak (Quercus robur), common alder (Alnus glutinosa), green beech (Fagus sylvatica), silver birch (Betula pendula), hornbeam (Carpinus betulus), blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea), goat willow (Salix caprea), dog rose (Rosa canina), hazel (Corylus avellana), and crab apple (Malus sylvestris).

The green beech came in very handy, say the Friends, to fill the gaps in the large perimeter hedge that borders Whitfield Street. Over the years some of the trees have died and left bare patches. These have now been filled by this years planting.

Most of the trees will be grown as hedges for their ornamental as well as ecological value. The Friends group also created a number of areas of deadwood and “brash” to provide a habitat for insects and provide nest materials for birds. Leaves are collected and used to create mulch to protect the planting.

The park also has a number of interesting and valuable non-native tree species. Currently in flower is a loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) which is native to eastern Asia. You can enjoy the fragrance from its winter blossom. There is a flowering dogwood, also native to eastern Asia; and the pergola has kiwi and wisteria growing along it. Both are native to eastern Asia.

The southern edge of the park is dominated by a large number of mature ivy (Hedera helix) climbers which provide a very important habitat for birds and insects.

Fitzrovia is on a B-line — a north-south insect pathway across London connecting natural areas and supporting bees, butterflies, and other wildlife. By improving the ecological value of the park the network of routes for insects to travel is reinforced.

The park is a habitat to and is visited by a number of birds. Blackbirds, robins, wrens, dunnocks and wood pigeons are common nesting birds. Starlings and woodpecks pay a visit every now and again. Parakeets can be seen — and heard! — visiting the park. And sparrow hawks regularly make an early morning swoop into the park to take a feral pigeon for breakfast.

At dusk, from April to October, common pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) can be seen flying overhead and feeding on night-flying insects. They hibernate during the rest of the year.

Crabtree Fields was created from a former WW2 bombsite in the 1980s after local residents and campaign group the Charlotte Street Association persuaded the Greater London Council and Camden Council to turn it into a public open space. Designs for the park were drawn up by council architects in consultation with local residents.

Crabtree Fields public open space, formal garden, and nature reserve. Photo: Friends of Crabtree Fields.

The park is now owned by Camden Council and the hard surfaces are swept and the bins emptied by Camden’s cleansing contractor Veolia. The grounds maintenance and repairs are done by Camden’s parks’ contractor idverde. The Friends of Crabtree Fields are a volunteer group who carry out nature conservation work in partnership with Camden and its contractors.

The public park is a formal garden and nature reserve located on the corner of Colville Place and Whitfield Street and is open every day and closes at dusk. “Please don’t feed the birds — there’s plenty of natural food in the park — and put your litter in the bins or take it home,” say the Friends.