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Trees for sacred spaces

Churches across London now have the opportunity to make their neighbourhood a greener place as part of a new project supported by the Mayor of London.

Tree planting in churchyards

In February 2017, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres launched the ‘Trees for Sacred Spaces’ project, along with the Bishops of Southwark and Chelmsford and Shirley Rodrigues, London’s Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy.

The purpose of Trees for Sacred Spaces is to encourage the planting of trees on church land in Greater London. The project is being run by the Conservation Foundation with the Mayor of London, and the Dioceses of London, Southwark, Chelmsford and Rochester. All these four dioceses contain parts of the Greater London.

How green is your churchyard?

The project is encouraging churches within London boroughs to work with their local communities to make their churchyard, and all of London, a greener and healthier place by working with their community to plant more trees.

The project is part of the Mayor’s ambition to make London one of the greenest cities in the world. This project will support the Mayor’s commitment to further increase tree canopy cover in London, and in churchyards and other public land. Trees for Sacred Spaces also builds on the London United campaign, launched with church leaders and the deputy Mayor for Social Integration and Community Integration in September 2016. This project aims to encourage churches to showcase their work and role within the community.

Tree species

There are twelve species of trees available for churches to plant in their churchyard. Alternatively, if suitable space is not available in the churchyard, a tree may be donated to a local school, especially a church school, or to a local community group or public park. The land on which the tree is planted must be open to the public.

The chosen tree species are hawthorn, bird cherry, wild cherry, whitebeam, crab apple, rowan, lime, tulip tree, Italian cypress, black mulberry, strawberry tree, and yew. These have been selected in discussion with the London Tree Officers Association.

  • All trees are from UK grown stock.
  • Trees will be supplied as standards and delivered to planting sites.
  • All trees will be supplied with stakes, ties, instructions on selecting a suitable site and information on planting, care and maintenance.

More information on the chosen species may be found at the Conservation Foundation (pdf).

Tree planting

Churches should select from the list of species to suit the characteristics of their own churchyard. The chosen tree species have been selected to help wildlife to thrive in London. All the trees will improve our air quality and the health of London’s population and environment, as well as supporting bees by providing pollen, nectar or resin.

The chosen trees are suitable for different sites with different soils. Bear in mind that most churchyards in London are on clay soils. Information about any particular churchyard can be obtained from Brian Cuthbertson, Head of Environment and Sustainability.

Trees will be available free to churches to plant or donate, in late October and through November 2017, ready for planting during National Tree Week, which runs from 25 November to 3 December 2017. Winter is the right season to plant a tree, while it is in a dormant state – but not if the soil is waterlogged or frozen. Seasonal and unseasonal weather can alternate abruptly – it is important to keep an eye on weather forecasts.

Organising tree plantings will also offer an opportunity for churches to organise events and ceremonies that involve members of other faiths in their parishes to celebrate and help to enhance the environments that people of all faiths and no faith share.


Churches should register their interest in taking part in planting or donating trees, with the Conservation Foundation, not later than 31 July 2017.

A church can request any number of trees, for which they have identified suitable and available sites.

Arboricultural guidance from members of the London Tree Officer’s Association churches will be supplied to churches that have registered.


You need written permission from your archdeacon for planting any tree in a churchyard subject to the faculty jurisdiction.

This is because tree planting is on List B of the system for approving Minor works to churches and churchyards.

More about churchyards and trees

For more about the Diocese’s projects concerning churchyards, see Churchyards for London.

For more about trees, see Trees in churchyards.

On wildlife, see Wildlife in churchyards.

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