Grannie Green Revivial

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Chp 123, Wall trees at Forbes Street – Forty years champion for the environment

Wall trees at Forbes Street

A “flash mob” gathered on 10 July 2005 at Forbes Street (科士街) just underneath a line of well-grown stone-wall trees (石牆樹). The flash mob had one message: preserve the trees and the stone-wall.

CA was the organizer of the flash mob. The gesture was to capture the attention of the MTRC, which was conducting consultation on the new stations to be built as extension of the Island Line. According to MTRC’s preliminary plans, the stone-wall trees would be a casualty of the project. Though an avowed supporter of railway, CA found that unacceptable and asked the MTRC to design the route alignment carefully to minimize impact on trees during construction. CA also wrote to the Antiquities and Monuments Office requesting that the government declare valuable stone wall trees as monuments, as the trees and the stone wall were one organic unit of heritage. A total of 14 sites were put to the AMO.

For Forbes Street, the protest action had the desired effect; later the MTRC agreed to re-align the Kennedy Town Station layout to preserve the trees and the stone wall.

But there are many other stone wall trees which are just as worthy of protection. And the value of wall trees must be appreciated more:

  • Many wall trees have been living for several decades, most of them native species. They proffer shades to the cramped, hillside communities.
  • Wall trees flourish from the joints, unattended, just like the can-do spirit of Hong Kong people. The disappearance of wall trees would mean the demise of another symbol of the Hong Kong spirit.
  • Wall trees bring together the unique forms of natural vegetation and man-made structures. It is a sheer coincidence of early artisanship and natural environ­ment. They are the living witnesses of the early history of Hong Kong.
  • Wall trees consist of various species and most of them native. The rich bio­diversity is beyond doubt and is important to greening as well as ecological research.

Some may already have the assurance that they would be protected, like the wall trees on Hollywood Road outside the Police Quarters, which was the subject of an earlier “green ribbon” action by the Central and Western District Council in June 2005. Those in Bonham Street near Centre Street and King George V Memorial Park are listed in the Register of Old and Valuable Trees and would hence be looked after by the Leisure and Cultural Services De­partment. But the future of others is unknown, such as those in Ship Street in Wanchai.

2006 saw another protest action to save wall trees, this time in Lung Chu Street in Kowloon. To promote understanding of this unique urban heritage of Hong Kong, CA organized a stone wall tree survey with the Wanchai District Council and published a guide to stone wall trees in Wanchai in June 2006.

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August 12, 2015 - Posted by | conservation, Dr WK Chan book

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