I’ve heard about a project called Tree Following via Gary Webb on Twitter, who is following a London Plane at Compton Verney. The project is being run by Lucy Corrander on her Loose and Leafy blog and the idea is to follow the life of a tree or a group of trees, returning at various points in the year to note the changes and what’s going on.
I love how trees reflect the changing seasons but also what they can tell us about our changing surroundings. For example, some like those at Beacon Park, are reminders of an old estate, when the buildings themselves are long gone. I like the idea that each species of tree has a history, with its own uses and customs and also that there have been trees in the past which have been so important they have given their name to an area, such as the Shire Oak at Walsall Wood.
Which tree(s) should I follow though? Here are some contenders, in and around Lichfield.
Diseased beech tree, Monks Walk, replaced by Walnut Tree
Wintery Christ Church
Newly planted cider orchard at Woodhouse Community Farm, Fisherwick
Scarred trunk of beech tree at Pipe Hill
Beech Tree on Pipe Hill looking over Lichfield
Sun setting over trees at Fisherwick
Oak tree outside Chestall Estate Lodge, near Gentleshaw
Fairy Glade, part of the Birches Valley Sculpture Trail at Cannock Chase
Almond tree on The Friary, Lichfield
Trees in Beacon Park, lining one of the old carriage routes
Monks Walk Tree – not sure which species will have to check!
Apples on my 4 year old tree
Tree on the roadside, Abnalls Lane
Spring in Leomansley Wood
My current thoughts are that I’ll choose a tree at Leomansley Wood and also our cider orchard at Fisherwick. I hope the comparison between a mature woodland tree and an orchard sapling will be interesting. Although, as you can see from the photo, the cider trees aren’t much more than sticks at the moment, so we’ll see!
Lorna from the Monks Walk Group has been in touch to say that unfortunately the beech tree in the gardens has been lost due to the Meripilus Giganteus fungus. The good news is that Staffordshire County Council is providing a walnut tree as a replacement.
I don’t know much about fungi or walnuts, so I did a quick bit of research. Apparently, Meripilus Gigantus also known as Giant Polypore is a common cause of death for mature beech trees. It seems we can’t even get our revenge on this fungus by eating it as, although not poisonous, it doesn’t taste particularly good. However, it is sometimes eaten by mistake as it looks like the Hen of the Woods, which is a tasty, edible fungus (and very good in risotto according to Morgan from Walsall Wildlife!).
In one of my all time favourite books, ‘England in Particular’, the entry for walnuts tells us that the trees were originally brought to Britain by the Romans (the Old English was wealhhnutu which means ‘foreign nut’)and amongst other places were planted in monastery gardens, so it seems that Staffordshire County Council have made an appropriate choice!
A huge walnut wood was planted to the north-east of Ashby de la Zouch around 10 years ago. Jaguar Lount wood is the largest plantation of walnut trees in Britain and as you might guess from the name, the project was sponsored by Jaguar Cars and it includes an area where they are researching the the growth of different varieties for timber and for their nuts. You can see the Forestry Commission leaflet here.
Of course, it probably goes without saying that perhaps most importantly of all, walnuts are a crucial ingredient in Walnut Whips. Much tastier than Meripilus Gigantus.
England in Particular – Sue Clifford & Angela King