• The Armada Avenue revisited after eight years

    The weather was a bit hit & miss last week so the first day that took me down towards Abergavenny on other business was perhaps not the best opportunity to revisit the Armada Avenue of Spanish chestnuts behind Llanvihangel Court, but it was over eight years since I last came to see how they were and photographed them in the spring of 2011 for my then forthcoming book "Heritage Trees Wales". It was fascinating to discover from the farmer who currently owns this land that the trees have been known as the Armada Avenue for as long as he could remember. It has always been believed that the trees were planted with chestnuts taken from one of the stricken vessels of the Spanish Armada back in 1588. I'd have to say that there is a strong possibility that some of the largest trees - several with girths over 30 feet - might just be over 400 years old. Remarkably, in shape and form they do resemble the so-called Armada Avenue of chestnuts at Croft Castle in Herefordshire. There is a very naive painting of Llanvihangel Court in 1680 still hanging on the walls of the great house to this day that shows an avenue of trees in exactly the same place as the chestnuts of today. If they were around 100 years old then... who knows? It's difficult to be categorical about this, as the trees might be a previous generation of any species (they are so small in the painting it's hard to see for sure), but maybe us romantics shouldn't let the flimsy evidence sully a good yarn.

    Many of the chestnuts have succumbed to disease down the years, most probably phytophthora in recent times, but the last eight years seems to have shown something of a plateau in the rate of decline, so who knows maybe these grand old Spaniards are fighting back.

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