Sadly, this will be my swan song blog to do with trees. The ‘trees for the office’ protest at the water cooler is being disbanded. Suffice to say it involved some choice language, some sawed through hemp rope, a water soaked carpet and a few bruised egos. Both Mrs Fitzsimmons and I are required to avoid the area around the water cooler and are to have nominated representatives to refill our water bottles for the next week.
However, as with all good swansongs, I’ve saved the best ‘til last.
These are Britain’s most spectacular trees, identified in a new study of prime specimens across the country.
Tallest: A 211ft grand fir planted in the 1870s beside Loch Fyne, Argyll. It is thought to be the UK’s tallest tree since before the last ice age. The fir, in Ardkinglas Woodland Gardens, has “died back” twice in the last 20 years – meaning the top has died, as a result of drought or a lightning strike, before growing back.
Thickest: “Majesty”, a pedunculate oak, in Fredville Park, a privately-owned estate, near Dover, Kent, has a trunk 13ft across, when measured at chest height, with a circumference of 40ft. It keeps this girth up to a height of about 20ft, but is completely hollow.
Biggest (in terms of volume of timber): A sessile oak growing in the grounds of Croft Castle, a National Trust property in Herefordshire. It is 115ft tall with a trunk 9ft thick at its base, with a volume calculated at 3,800 cubic feet, making it Britain’s biggest living thing.
Oldest: There are three in this category, all yews, all in churchyards and all up to 5,000 years old, making them what are thought to be the oldest living organisms in Europe. They are at Fortingall, in Perthshire, Discoed, in Powys, and Llangernyw, in Conwy. Many churchyards boast yew trees, which often predate the church and may have marked pagan burial grounds.
Rarest: There are several tree species of which only specimen exists, including the Audley End oak, (Quercus audleyensis). It was planted in 1772, at Audley End, Essex – now an English Heritage site. Attempts have been made to plant grafts, but all have died.
Most spreading: An Oriental plane at Corsham Court – a privately-owned historic house in Wiltshire – covers an area almost the size of a football pitch, with an average spread of more than 210ft. Planted in 1757, it is so vast that its lowest branches rest on the ground and some have taken root. The largest “unsupported” crown is thought to belong to a Turkey oak, near Shute House, in Devon, which is up to 177ft across – 70 per cent wider than the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Fastest growing: A silvertop – a species of eucalypt – which grew to the height of a seventh floor window (66ft), in the space of six years. The tree, at Harcourt Arboretum – which is run by the University of Oxford – died last winter. Other swift growers include a hybrid poplar, in Kingscliff Wood, Somerset, which reached 98ft in 17 years.
So, there you have it, trees of Britain, in all their glory. Long may they reign, or shade, or give sustenance to.
*Extracts from an article in The Telegraph by Jasper Copping