The man who has spent decades looking after the borough’s tens of thousands of trees and helped make Wandsworth one of London’s greenest and leafiest locations has been given a special award by his peers in this year’s London Tree & Woodland Awards.
Jerry Birtles was presented with an individual commitment award by his professional counterparts in the London Tree Officers Association at last week’s awards ceremony.
Dubbed London’s “Tree Oscars” the awards were organised and sponsored by the Mayor of London’s environment team and the Forestry Commission and held to honour and reward those in the capital who have worked tirelessly to protect and expand London’s tree cover.
The award was presented to Jerry at City Hall by Deputy Mayor for Environment and Energy Shirley Rodrigues alongside Forestry Commission Chairman Sir Harry Studholme.
Jerry has been looking after trees in Wandsworth for 29 years. Under his stewardship the number of trees growing in the borough currently stands at approximately 60,000. Included in this number are 15,000 street trees which ensure that the borough’s residential areas have good tree cover.
One of his final acts before he retired as the boroughs’ chief parks officer last month was to oversee the planting of 660 new trees over last winter’s planting season – a number which included 500 new street trees, along with plans to plant a similar number this coming winter.
Wandsworth’s parks and open spaces spokesman Cllr Steffi Sutters said: “Never has an award been richly more deserved that it is Jerry’s case. He has spent a life’s career caring for trees and looking after them with passion and expertise that can be matched by few.
“What is most pleasing about this award is that it has been given to him by his peers – his fellow tree officers from all the other London boroughs who know a dedicated and talented tree expert when they see one.
“Jerry retired last month and I would like to put on record our thanks and gratitude to him for all the incredible work he has done over nearly three decades in looking after Wandsworth’s trees and ensuring that the borough has a deserved reputation as one of London’s greenest and leafiest.”
Another tribute to Jerry was delivered in the latest review magazine published by the Friends of Battersea Park which said: “It goes without saying that the Friends love Battersea Park with a passion. And while we walk our dogs, enjoy the rose garden, contemplate the river, watch the fireworks on Bonfire Night or even Go Ape in the treetops, it would be very easy to assume that the park happens as if by magic. It doesn’t. It happens because Jerry Birtles, chief parks officer, and his staff and colleagues are supremely good at their job.”