• Monster rowan in flower

    I was completely blown away by the monster rowan on the hills above Kinsham when I first went up there about three weeks ago. A 4.5m girth would certainly look like a world record to me. Closer inspection of the tree the other day led me to look at the ramification of its bole. While it may well be emerging at ground level as one single bole there is also a sense that the bole is composed of several closely entwined stems which, as they have grown, have become fused together. Clearly, only a cross-section of the whole bole would confirm or refute this. That said, this is still a remarkable tree. A closer look at the fallen bough behind the tree, that may in some fashion be propping up the rest of the tree, much of which is displaying various splits and areas of decay, reveals a braid of aerial roots tracking back along the inside of the decaying structure. I love this powerful illustration of the drive to survive.

    Anyway here's the tree in splendid full flower. How old do we think it might be? I'm going 150-200 years old... but who knows?

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  • A twig that may one day lead to a beautiful relationship

    A couple of years ago a chap dropped by the house who wanted to buy one of my books (apologies to him - I have forgotten his name), and he very kindly gave me a female native black poplar in a pot, as he was doing his best to spread them around the country with the hope of raising the percentage of females against the overwhwelming number of male trees. I nursed it along in its pot these last couple of years and then planted it out in our new little wood at the bottom of our orchard back in February.

    About the same time as this I was over in Putley photographing Dave Smith repollarding some old black pops. (see back on the blog). As I was leaving I snapped half a dozen twigs off the ends of the brash, took them home, and simply heeled them into the edge of one of the veg. beds. To my delight one of them struck and now I have a very small male tree to be nurtured in a pot until it is big enough to join its mate down in the wood.

    I know this is very small beer as far as native black poplar regen. in the county is concerned, but hopefully it will do some good, and if the female eventually starts to produce viable seed then all will not have been in vain.

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  • British Oak at Leominster Festival

    Just a quick heads up to my visitors that if you fancy an entertaining evening in two weeks time I will be delivering my "British Oak" illustrated lecture at Leominster Festival on May 31st. Check it out on the Festival website - www.leominster-festival.co.uk

    I was rather chuffed to hear that Constable, who published "The British Oak" in 2013, are to publish a second edition in September this year. This has been largely due to popular demand and, apparently, they are going to market the book in The States this year. The cover remains pretty much the same design, but with a new colourway & added review snippets. The title will be gold blocked rather than the bright orange you see on the accompanying image.

    A promotional tour would be fun..... but I'm not holding my breath.

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  • Large, very large, large-leaved limes

    Large-leaved lime is undoubtedly the scarcer cousin of our other native lime - small-leaved lime. Usually they turn up in ancient woodland settings, often largely obscured by other trees.

    In the late afternoon on Saturday David, Sarah & I rocked up at Downton on the Rock - Downton Castle once having been the home to the great botanist and horticulturist Thomas Andrew Knight (he of 'Pomona Herefordiensis' of 1811 fame). A few footpaths traverse the old estate here which offers a good view of what is left of the ancient parkland. Much has been carved up for arable use down the years, but plenty is still used as pasture. I knew from accounts of the park and records on the Ancient Tree Hunt website that two remarkable large-leaved limes were in the middle of the park. As it happens they actually squat in the middle of a wheat field - one has to wonder whether deep ploughing or agrichemicals might be issues for them, but since they have probably weathered these conditions for many a year and still look pretty vibrant - perhaps not.

    These are two true tree monsters - one 8.7m in girth and the other 9m, but how one gets an accurate measurement is beyond me. Of course they are hollow and the bole of one is hugely fragmented. There's marvellous evidence of these trees' tenacity - aerial roots. Just how long do these take to form & reach the ground and how is their inception and advance triggered by the tree? On one tree that is completely hollowed and open on the south side the live tissue and new bark can be seen wrapping its way around the edges of the void, building and buttressing to bring added support to a structure that has already been failing for centuries.

    And that's another matter. How on earth does one guage an age for these trees? 500 years seems too modest, but is 1,000 years unrealistic? We simply do not know. My personal suspicion is that these were once trees of ancient woodland, long before it was cleared to make the deer park. Maybe early maps would give us a clue. Certainly regular pollarding has kept them alive and one has to wonder when the next session is due. However it's done due sensitivity to these wonderful oldsters should be exercised. Gently gently does it - perhaps a haircut in three or four sittings.

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  • Discoveries in remote places

    Knowing Herefordshire fairly well after 25 years of roaming hither and yon it comes as something of a surprise to be taken to see new tree delights that I had never even dreamed existed in our county. On Saturday David and Sarah kindly guided me to some of their favourite trees in the far northwest of Herefordshire, and boy oh boy have they found some crackers.

    They took me first to see a splendid ancient field maple, squatting resolutely on an old hedge line on the side of Herrock Hill. This burry old coppice stool turns out to be one of the biggest of its species in the UK. It may look a little decrepit, but it's still bursting with life. I'll be back to have another look when it's in full leaf.

    'How about a big wild cherry?', said David, and on we went over the valley to find what must be one of the biggest in the land. Again, it needs a few more days before the flowering.

    We clocked another even more decrepit looking field maple in another hedgerow, but yet again life is springing eternal in this monstrous ancient. These upland hillsides are heaving with stunning ancient and veteran trees - as well as the maples there are birches, hazels, oaks, cherries, hawthorns and a crab apple that must vie for some sort of record.

    After a sensational morning we rolled east to the hills above Kinsham and David and Sarah were very proud to show me the world (yes, world) record girth rowan - 4.5m. It may have partially tumbled, but it is still full of the drive to survive. I'll be back in a week or so to capture the flowering.

    More shortly....

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