• 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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  • Ash Tree Down

    This is almost certainly what we have to look forward to. Ash trees will be tumbling all over the country in ever increasing numbers as ash dieback nails them. This old ash pollard was struggling three or four years back, but I'm fairly sure that ash dieback, along with fungi were the final nails in the coffin for it. The abundance of ivy also made it a huge wind sail for the sudden gust of wind that brought it down on what was otherwise a fairly calm day. As I came home on the 1st it was apparent that it had fallen only a few minutes before my arrival. Possibilities don't bear thinking about!!! I had suggested to the farmer on a couple of occasions that it might be a good idea to bring it down in a more controlled manner, but it was always one of those I'll-get-around-to-it jobs. The only up side is that I have quite a bit of firewood tucked away for the winter.

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  • ...and what exactly is this tree? Eucalyptus globulus? And why?

    Visiting Yorkshire last week and as I was walking through the churchyard in Otley I happened upon this remarkable old tree that appears to have gently laid itself down to rest. Initial thoughts are that it is one of the eucalypts - perhaps a blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus) - the leaves look about right. It's pretty old I reckon, although they do have the capacity to grow fast. But why here in this churchyard? A most unusual choice. Any further info. welcomed.

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  • Crowhurst Yew - 'Voices from the Past'

    The latest arrival in the historical archive is this fine glass lantern slide of the ancient Crowhurst Yew in Surrey, part of a series called 'Voices from the Past' and probably dating from around 1910. Still a famed and remarkable tree and one that I photographed almost twenty years ago for "Heritage Trees of Great Britain & Northern Ireland". The notice on the old door states that:

    'The Key of the tree can be had at the Manor House on opposite side of the road'.

    The sign is long gone but the tree is still in great shape.

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  • Lassington Oak

    Latest acquisition for the archive collection is this splendid image of the famous Lassington Oak - a grand old tree that once grew in Lassington Wood near Highnam in Gloucestershire. The photograph is actually dated 15th August 1895 on the reverse and would appear to have been taken by some unknown amateur photographer. Look carefully and you'll see that he hitched his horse near the tree while he took the shot. This may be the earliest existing image of the tree, although it was soon to be followed in the Edwardian era by a whole host of representations on postcards - clearly a popular local subject with plenty of sales potential. The tree fell in 1960 and if you look online you'll see that the rotting remains still survive on the woodland floor. Fame of the name has survived in the title of the local morris side - Lassington Oak. Again, find out more about them on the Internet.

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Archie Miles photography

Archie's Blog

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