8 year old eco warrior Caity McDonald from Nunhead in South London has teamed up with her 26 year old cousin, professional illustrator Ella McLean to create a powerful and heartfelt animation.


The hand-drawn film highlights the madness of destroying and clearing established woodland for any purpose (in this case creating 'new' burial space for profit) and offers a logical alternative. All through the eyes of a child.


This is a story which at some point is going to affect every city within the UK and most likely globally. Burial space is running out. The cemeteries are full.

'Trees: Our Cities' Lungs' – a child’s story

17th March 2016    |    [email protected]    |    @southwarkwoods    |    Facebook Page Save Southwark Woods


Trees: Our Cities' Lungs

Animation by Ella McLean, voiced by 8 year old Caity McDonald

In South London, rather than take the option available to bury residents in a state of the art cemetery 6 miles away, Southwark Council Leader Peter John has opted to forge ahead with his Super Cemeteries project: the largest so-called 'reuse' project in UK history.


Leader Peter John's mission is to excavate or mound over every grave over 75 years old within Camberwell Old and New Cemeteries. Extinguishing burial rights, removing headstones and sweeping the heritage away... "as though the past was never there" - a haunting quote from McLean's film.


Without permission from the Church Of England, and despite objection from thousands of local residents, and over 10,000 nationwide, Southwark have moved in to Camberwell Old Cemetery with chainsaws, bulldozers and diggers.


Southwark has already removed two acres of biodiverse woodland in order to mound over the graves of 48,000 Londoners, including unmarked Commonwealth War Graves and victims of the Blit. All to create 750 'new' graves.


The Council also plans to clear another ten acres of woods, trees, shrubs and headstones; and have ear-marked 60 trees to be felled any day now on Historic One Tree Hill in Camberwell New Cemetery where there is a known hedgehog colony. All for 145 plots, less than nine months of burial.


Elected member of the Eco Committee at Horniman Primary School, Caity McDonald has written a 6 page letter to the national press about her very real concerns for the future of our planet.


"Dear Newspaper People, I am writing to you about a serious matter. To ask you to stop Southwark Council from cutting down our trees, because they are! It is very wrong!"


Caity goes on to say:


"The woods are cool and beautiful because they are leafy and green. When I am in the woods I feel happy... Nature is important to us. If there are no trees then we will die because they give us oxygen and we need oxygen to breathe. Lots of people forget this, or maybe they just don't know, because if they did surely they wouldn't want to cut down healthy trees."


Caity finishes her letter by saying:


"I may only be 8 years old but one day I will be the same age as my Mummy and I want there to still be trees. Please help me by printing my letter so that people can know."


The trees, shrubs and wildflowers have grown up around the headstones, some of which date back to early Victorian days. Woodland is interspersed with wildflower meadows, under which, many thousands of London's poor were laid to rest.


Mother of Caity, Emma Wilkinson says:


"This glorious nature reserve has become home to all manner of wildlife including bats, owls and stag beetles. It has for many years been a sanctuary for local residents, a peaceful place for mourners to visit and a wonderful resource for children to explore and learn about being at one with nature. Essential I feel for this generation of children who so often live such a sanitised life."


"Woodland like this where trees have self seeded, and fruit trees and blackberries are interspersed with Oak and Ash are particularly valuable space for an increasing number of children growing up in homes with no access to a garden.  These areas are very different to the manicured lawns and borders of local parks."


When walking in these woods, it is very easy to forget that you are in Central London. But for a very faint hum of distant traffic, and an occasional airplane over head, the predominant sound is of bird song, beautiful and bright.


Being within this amazing space, it is easy to know why the phrase 'Rest in Peace' is so perfect. There is a tranquil calm, a sense of a lasting legacy of those departed... That their resting has allowed this beautiful natural space for future generations to enjoy. It feels like a perfect exchange.


And what a legacy it has been. That is, until locals discovered Southwark Council's dreaded plans to destroy this sanctuary.


"There was no warning; no local opinion taken into account. Work had already begun before anyone knew what was happening, destroying nature and heritage, already ripping out an ancient hawthorn hedgerow to mound over thousands of graves along Woodvale. I can only describe the feeling in seeing the destruction as grief. It really is that bad," says Emma.


Locals united in their passion to save what remains rallied together and so began the Save Southwark Woods Campaign, with the pledge to save the trees and the graves and memorials for the living with respect for the dead.


Final words go to the innocent voice of Caity from the Save Southwark Woods animation 'Trees: Our Cities' Lungs':


"But there is another way! To let the dead Rest In Peace; allow the wild plants and trees to grow up - sacred space for lovers to walk, children to explore and relatives to remember. We know it's wrong to destroy the trees - they are our cities' lungs."


Out of the mouths of Babes... Maybe it is time the adults sat up and listened.


Save Southwrk Woods is fighting to preotect and preserve the Camberwell Cemeteries, their woods, meadows nature, history and heritage as Local Nature Reserves, with respect for the dead buried there and woods for the living.



Contact Emma Wilkinson at Save Southwark Woods for more information:

[email protected]

Dear Newspaper People: Download Caity McDonald's letter to the press here:


8 year old Caity McDonald in threatened Camberwell Old Cemetery where woods and graves are to be cleared

Download Caity's letter

Read Caity's handwritten letter with illustration here...


Watch Stunning Animation 'Trees, Our Cities' Lungs' here:


Share the Animation on Facebook

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Animated by Ella McLean

Narrated by Caity McDonald

Written by Caity McDonald & Emma Wilkinson

Sound & Editing Tom McLean



Sign the petition here:


See more of Ella McLean's work here: