Can you see the tree for the wood?

wildgardensmikeWhen talking to visitors about what trees they like in the Wild Garden the answers are typically the cedar, the limes in the avenue – and then a long pause! A pity, because we have some 2000 other mature trees; the problem is that you can seldom see them as individuals because of the congestion caused by the self-seeded ash and sycamore obstructing the original view points.

Many of our trees have special significance in a number of cultures. The oak – a symbol of strength and survival; the western red cedar – celebrated for its strength and fragrance; the yew a symbol of immortality. Hornbeam is renowned for its strength, while tonics made from the leaves help relieve tiredness and exhaustion, and heal wounds; the larch is said to protect against enchantment and to protect against evil spirits.

The woods have taken shape over the last 150 years, starting with the specimen plantings around the ponds and canals in the 1860s and a second planting around 1901. The two general woodland areas either side of the bottom of the avenue were planted in the early 1920s, possibly with grants from the newly formed Forestry Commission, together with further planting in the 1980s and 90s

Walk down Dog Kennel Lane from the A361, passing a line of lime trees, through the gate and along the Upper Pond; on your right are four magnificent copper beeches, but you can seldom see them. The best view is from the field to the west looking back on the Wild Garden – or even better an aerial view such as Google maps! Here you can see the glorious crowns standing above the surrounding green. There were a large number of beeches planted in the garden down the west side of the canals. Today we have recorded 39 remaining including the magnificent fallen beech, now a climbing frame by the upper canal.

Sit on the bench by the Round Pond and imagine the second cedar that came down in 1985 opposite you – where the holly tree is now, and then carefully look around. You realise that the whole pond is encircled by evergreens; the yew to the left of you; the cypress cluster to the right; the yew cluster on the mound by the bridge; another yew on the far side.

Continue down the canals and up right along the field boundary path. Look out for the row of wild cherries along the field edge, the result of more recent plantings.

So enjoy the individual trees as well as the woodland and give them the respect they deserve!

Mike Watson

April – May 2019