• Bryan's Ground

    A day off on Monday & we went to see a local, well fairly local, garden at Bryan's Ground, near Presteigne. A superb 3 acre patch that has been evolving for a little over a century around an arts & crafts house built in 1912. This is not your usual formal, neatly manicured garden where a weed would be ashamed to show its face, but a glorious mixture of inspired planting, indulged colonisation, nooks, crannies, follies and sculptural fancies, richly interplanted with many fine trees and hedges, along with the mighty existing trees that must have cast their shadows across Bryan's Ground long before the house existed.

    The gardens are only open on Sunday and Monday afternoons between April and July, but I can't recommend them highly enough.

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  • A cracking little album from the 20s

    My partner Jan has a great knack of turning up some wonderful photographs from the past. This time she discovered a small family album from the 1920s among a jumble of clutter on a car boot table, rescuing it for the princely sum of £1.50. Granted, many of the images are poorly composed, sometimes creased or badly faded, but here and there the occasional nugget jumps off the page. It's that never ending fascination with these intimate moments of the lives of unknown people (none of the pictures are captioned) in unknown places from around a century ago that grabs the attention and fires the imagination, prompting so many questions that will never be answered.

    Jan's main reason for buying the album? She spotted a picture of a Scottie dog.

    ... and then we had a closer look at some of the other pictures & sure enough their faithful Scottie features with the family.

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  • 10 years after - a brilliant day in Welwyn Garden City

    Met Welwyn & Hatfield Council Tree Officer Olly Waring and his colleague Emma at the Council offices in Welwyn Garden City yesterday and we worked out that it was well nigh ten years since I last visited to present a tree talk.

    Before the evening talk we set out for a swift tour of some of their most treasured and impressive trees - a true urban extravaganza in Welwyn. Barely a couple of hundred yards from the office they were proud to show me an extremely large wild service tree - clearly a remnant of the wooded countryside from which Welwyn Garden City was carved out some 99 years ago (they celebrate their centenary in 2020). And what a sensible vision they must have had to try and integrate the old woods and hedgerows into the layout of the town. We spied a truly massive oak wedged into a little cul-de-sac - proabably at least 500 years old and still in great shape. An oak coppice stool that can't have been cut for about 150 years at least and old hornbeams also wedged on long forgotten hedge banks. Then there are the trees that were planted to leaf out the burgeoning town - some fine London planes, horse chestnuts and an over abundance of limes. As we wandered down one of the green streets we came upon a most intriguing Indian bean tree or Catalpa. The tree leaned slightly to one side, but seemed sound, and yet it had what appeared to be several aerial type roots spiralling around its trunk - one large one and perhaps six or eight smaller ones, but it was difficult to ascertain whether they were growing upwards or downwards. A phenomenon I've never observed before so a bit of research required here.

    By 7.30 p.m. we were all gathered for me to present my ASH talk - a full house, so many thanks to the enthusiastic tree people of Welwyn and environs - it was lovely to meet you and chat to so many of you before and after the talk. And thanks to Olly for inviting me.

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  • Hey Hay

    Day before yesterday took myself to Hay Festival where I was booked to appear on the main stage with Natalie Buttriss, CEO Woodland Trust Wales and George Peterken for an hour's chat about the state of British woodlands, with Sandi Toksvig in the chair. All went well & we had about 400 in for it. The hour just flew by and I finished thinking that there were so many things I'd wanted to say, but never had the opportunity. Anyway the crowd seemed very appreciative & enjoyed chatting to a few book buyers in the shop afterwards. Sandi every bit as lovely as you'd think & kindly signed a couple of cards for one of our friend's "Bake Off" fanatical daughters. (Sandi - if for some obscure reason you ever see this - they were both completely off the scale with excitement when I sent them down in the post, so thanks again).

    Anyway here we are in a press pic. they took before we got going - thanks to photographer Paul Musso for permission to feature it on the blog.

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  • Crowhurst Yew added to the archive

    Latest addition to the tree image archive is this c1900 depiction of the Crowhurst Yew in Surrey. The image was spotted online, described as 'a large tree in a cemetery', and although it was reproduced backwards way round I knew straight away what it was.

    The tree was first measured in 1630 and found to have a girth of about 9.15 metres at chest height. Evelyn mentions it in his "Sylva" of 1664, as do numerous other topographical writers and tree buffs up to the present day, with current measurement coming in around the 10 metre mark. So in a shade under 300 years the tree has only put on 85 cms of growth. Age estimations vary widely, from about 1500 through to 4000 years. Who knows?

    This positive image from the original glass negative that I have acquired shows the tree with the door into its hollow interior standing open. It is said that the tree was actually hollowed out around 1820 (although I suspect this was merely a slight enlargement of an already hollow interior) and a bench placed inside that could seat 12 people (surely an exaggeration) as well as a table (please!).

    I went to photograph the tree back in 2002 as part of the start of the "Heritage Trees of Britain" project.

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