• Hatch Park history

    The latest addition to the historical archive is this slightly wacky image of six people decking the boughs of an ancient hornbeam pollard in Hatch Park, near Ashford in Kent. Dating from around 1880 it's a cabinet size albumen print taken by Robert Stirling (I can find no mention of Stirling as a professional photographer in Kent). This is extremely off-beat for a group photograph of this period. Who were they? Whatever possessed them?

    What this photograph does show rather well is a recently pollarded ancient hornbeam - trees that had already been associated with the deer park and its related woodland at Hatch Park for many centuries and, indeed, still very much the case today with an ongoing conservation strategy to maintain these very special trees. I was there nine years ago and photographed several thriving examples of these hornbeams - a native tree of course, but its range very much associated with south-east England.

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  • Cheers, but not quite yet..

    Sitting on the doorstep this morning looking out at the large birch at the end of the walled garden & I spotted something drip-dripping from about twenty feet up the tree. No rain for days so what could it be? A closer look revealed a partially snapped branch, probably from the recent gales, and a steady drip of sap. The grass where it had dripped looked slightly frosted - it was crystalized sugar. Put out a bowl & in less than an hour collected this glass full. Beautifully clear, but smelling of nothing and tasting only very slightly sweet. In Scotland they tap the birch trees at this time of year, collecting a lot of liquid from which they make birch sap wine. With so little distinctive flavour in the raw material it's hard to imagine what it might taste like.

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  • Tony Norman - local hero for the native black poplar

    Tony Norman from Pembridge has become a local hero for the conservation efforts to maintain and expand the numbers of native black poplars in Herefordshire. About three years ago Tony got together with David Griffith, another enthusiastic advocate for the black poplar, as they were well aware that the number of mature native black poplars in the county were down to about 200 trees, and several were being lost every year as old age and the elements caught up with them. The plan was to get 1,000 new trees in the ground and, most particularly, to try and bolster up the population of female trees to encourage natural regen. by seed. Several friends and members of the Herefordshire Tree Warden Network have now got the bit between their teeth and planting continues apace, with new trees being mapped and added to a database. Fortunately the planting season is almost over now that Covid-19 is with us.

    Here's a picture of Tony planting one of his truncheons into a streamside near Eardisland with a splendid example of an outgrown pollard in the background - hopefully the shape of things to come.

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  • 6 Men!!! and oh yes, a huge oak tree

    Just acquired for the archive collection this most unusual image of a huge, ancient oak tree with 6 men around it - 2 in the boughs & 4 beneath. It's an Edwardian postcard and it simply says, '6 Men!!!' on the back with not an inkling of where it is or what might be special about the tree. Anyone got any ideas?

    I just love the random nature of it and also, if you look closely, I think the man on the left beneath the tree has a box camera of some sort on his lap... taking a photo of the photographer perhaps?

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  • Ancient black poplar pollard at Llangarron

    Arboricultural consultant Jerry Ross organised a splendid session at Upperfields Farm, Llangarron last Saturday (22.2.20) to raise awareness of how to manage large old native black poplars. Around 50 folks gathered at the farm for a briefing about these now rather scarce trees (only about 200 in Herefordshire, & less than 7,000 across UK). Tony Norman who has been co-ordinating a black pop tree planting program explained how simple the process was - drive a stick or truncheon (a larger stick) into the ground on a soft muddy riverbank and there's a pretty good chance it will take root. Into the field opposite the farm to find the demo. tree - a splendid old stager with a rambling hollow bole right next to an old spring-fed pond. Jerry had explained that the best way forward with these ancient pops - for ancient it probably is - maybe 250 years old - is a very cautious thinning and pruning back of long pendulous boughs that might put undue strain on the now fragile old bole. The leverage of these very long arcing boughs is considerable and especiallly worrying with this succession of stormy episodes this winter. In fact, on the day, it was still a bit too gusty to get all the work done and tree surgeon Joe Brandt decided to call a halt after a very brief 'haircut' for the old tree. He'll be back another day.

    Huge thanks to Vernon & Sheila Jones for their hospitality and it is to be hoped the old pop hangs in there until further remedial work can continue.

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Archie Miles photography

Archie's Blog

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