Halesworth Heritage Tree Walk is part of Halesworth Heritage Open Days, the weekend of September 21/22 2019. The text in the brochure reads:
A guided walk around the Heritage Trees of Halesworth, led by Rachel Kellett. Originally surveyed and defined by Richard Woolnough, then Linda Grey and Lisa Simmonds, these are the among the oldest and most spectacular trees of our town. Many are in the Cemetery, but not all, with some on private land and common footpaths. Some we may have just walked by without noticing. From old coppice Hornbeam to straight standard Oaks and delicate Ash.
Why this walk?
For 5 years (this year – June 2014) I’ve owned a 5 acre woodland in Holton, a culmination of working for 10 years as Site Manager of Holton Hall Park, a 70 acre estate (now static Caravan Park) with mature and diverse trees. (Before that I’d sat under Bodhi trees in India, and driven to Tumbukoo through groves of Baobabs in West Africa).
Within all these experiences I came across people, wanted to cut down trees: to make way for mountain roads, for firewood to cook on, to give more light, to prevent untidy leaves falling on lawns, to stop the noise of conquers falling on a roof, to stop providing perches for birds to loiter on and shit on cars. In many cases the tree could be lifted rather than felled and solutions could be found which saved the tree. Yes, their roots do get into drains, their leaves do block light. But think of all they do for us and the nature system around us….
Michael offered me the chance of elevating trees, as part of our heritage. Every tree enables our heritage. Quite simply the tree takes our waste, and turns it into our life force, Carbon dioxide into oxygen (as well as the thousands of other things it does for our land, water and animals providing bed and breakfast and homes to thousands of creatures and plants and fungi)
Richard Woolnaugh, Halesworth in Bloom and HERITAGE TREES
Imagine my delight when I discovered that a very good record of Halesworth’s Heritage trees already existed, compiled in 2013 by Richard Woolnaugh, supported by the Tree Wardens, Linda Gray and Lisa Simmonds. Recorded are 31 trees, photographed, located, circumference measured, landowner listed, dated (back to 2008) and name of surveyor.
In addition the cemetery had it’s own record with notes from Janet Huckle and Lisa Simmonds. These records have been invaluable. I took the book and went to visit Richard, another surprising opening in this venture:
Yes, Richard said, he was the one who began this compilation. It probably grew out of the nationwide hedgerow survey. ‘It was a start’, he said, ‘and I was hoping it would stimulate and encourage others to contribute towards it.’ Indeed others including Linda, Lisa and Gabrielle, have updated this file. I asked if I could put it online – yes, he said. His plan had worked. He was an inveterate campaigner.
‘Don’t forget the view!’ was the second lesson Richard gave. ‘In fact I think there would be a Views of Halesworth list too!’ His point was the view of Halesworth from across the meadow is almost completely hidden now. Judith provided photographic evidence over the last 10 years.
‘Plant a tree is a very convincing sound bite – but where to plant and how to maintain?’
The walk being limited to an hour, limited the geography so sadly I had to rule out the great Oak Pollard in Swan Lane, but I’ve included it here in the theoretical walk. When I asked Richard which of the Heritage Trees he considered most vital, he said the Swan Lane oak.
What are Heritage Trees?
A heritage tree is typically a large, individual tree with unique value, which is considered irreplaceable. While it is not necessarily ancient, the major criteria for heritage tree designation are age, rarity, and size, as well as aesthetic, botanical, ecological, and historical value. Typically these trees are found where they have been protected from the ravages of mankind and our rapacious needs for habitation expansion. They are typcially found in our native woodlands, historic park lands including cemeteries and estates, along roadsides in particular boundaries, along railways and in hedgerows, agricultural fields and very occasionally as isolated specimens in the middle of housing estates or development sites.
Stages of a tree life: (Seed), Sappling, Mature, (Veteran), Ancient.
An ancient tree is one that has been allowed to grow old and with great age comes great habitats for wildlife. It is in the third and final stage of its life, which is not the end of the line – even though they are in the process of dieback and decay, it may go on for a long time. Typically they have wide trunks, which will likely be hollow. It could be an old coppice or pollard, which are some of the oldest trees and impossible to date through girth. Like humans, trees shrink with age so they may have a small canopy.
In forestry and the survey of veteran trees, a maiden is a tree of seedling origin which has never been coppiced or pollarded.
A veteran tree has features associated with advanced age (for its species), having the connotation of a ‘battle-scarred survivor’. As such a veteran tree has features which increase its value as habitat for wildlife (dead wood, cavities etc.) irrespective of its chronological age.
1. TOWN PARK, Hooker and the Tentacles of Tamsyn
This time almost exactly two years ago, Tamsyn Imison led a Hooker trail walk starting at the Town Park, which was once an extension of Hooker’s own garden. A creative, energetic and inspirational woman, Tamsyn organised the planting of our future Heritage Trees in our Town Park, namely a Giant Redwood and a Magnolia Grandiflora, both connected to the Hooker family. We started our walk here, admiring the rapid growth of the Gian Redwood, which had doubled in size in the two years since planting.
Tamsyn and Hooker were both admirable and successful activists.
Giant Redwood Sequoiadendron giganteum and Activism
The fact that the timber is of little use did not stop the European settlers in California from setting up saw-mills and cutting millions of feet of lumber. In 1878, Sir Joseph Hooker, Director of the Royal Botanic Garden Kew, prophesized widespread felling would drive the giant redwood to extinction before 1900. Giant redwood would then have the sad distinction of having been discovered by Europeans and destroyed by Europeans in the same century. The fact that the species is not extinct is due to the efforts of men like American Frederick Law Olmstead (co-designer of Central Park in Manhattan) and Scotsman John Muir. The latter was born in Dunbar in 1838 but emigrated to America with his family at the age of 11. It is thought that it was Muir who convinced Hooker, and many others of the plight of the Pacific forests and their inhabitants. Some historians credit him with being the real force behind the establishment of national parks in the USA.
Activism and Trees have a long entwined history
There are the tree huggers of India, the Chipko movement. Closer to home In January 1996 an army of eco warriors took to the trees in Newbury to try to prevent the construction of the Newbury bypass. The road was eventually built, but 20 years on did the “Battle of Newbury” have a lasting impact? 10,000 trees were eventually cut down to make way for the road that would get rid of a notorious bottleneck on the A34. (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-35132815)
ASH MAIDEN and ASH COPPICE and ASH POLLARD and ASH DIEBACK
and ASH CAUCUS
Beside the children’s playing area are some splendid and healthy Ash Maidens and Coppice, (multiple stems growing from the same stool). They must have been planted deliberately as a grove.
In some the relatively new tree disease of Ash Die Back can be seen. As Ash Die Back began to shake us all, Oliver Rackham wrote a beautiful little book just on the Ash Tree.
Ash Die Back is caused by the fungus Hymenoscyphus fraxineus (previously known by the names Chalara fraxinea and Hymenoschyphus pseudoalbidus). It blocks the water transport systems in trees causing leaf loss, lesions in the wood and on the bark and ultimately the dieback of the crown of the tree. This disease was first described in Poland in 1992 and has since swept westwards throughout Europe, sadly now wide spread in the UK mainly caused by the free import of Ash stock from East Europe, a madess as Ash seeds like weeds on our land. Madness! UEA are leading research into Chalara resistant Ash etc.
Over the Bridge are two of my favourite trees of all Halesworth, the two great and healthy Ash. They make me think of C18th paintings.
“It’s a different species of Ash’, Virginia observed, and so it was. I hadn’t noticed. Thinner and more spiky leaves we found it’s species name as Fraxinus angustifolia AKA Caucasian ash.
Here’s a close up of Mike’s parrot – in the distance between the two great Ash. He is involved in Richard’s team to manage the millenium green, the largest green in the UK!
The THREE BEECHES and a DUNWICH ROSE
There were three Beech trees here, two on the Town Park side of the river and one in the garden of Mayfied Lodge. The eastern tree blew down and soon after the western tree developed an ominous crack and the lean increased. It was felled by Waveney DC on safety grounds (WHEN?). Soon after the great hollow of the beach was vandalised and set alight so a very thorny Dunwich rose was planted in the centre by and is maintained by HIB. It took to it’s place like the proverbial duck and I photographed it earlier this summer.
Neil Mahler, a fungi expert from Leiston, was with us to diagnose the fungi as Meripilus giganteus (Giant Polypore) which would have been the reason the tree was felled. It causes a white rot to the roots until eventually there will be nothing anchoring the tree to the ground and it will fall without warning.that probably killed off the Beech.
On the Millennium parkland and owned by the Millennium Trust set up by Richard Woolnaugh, this splendid parkland tree stands alone in the meadow, now named after the tree – Chestnut Meadow. Here on a sparkling September day with nearly full moon setting behind.
Adjacent to the Town River and originally established as an ox bow where it was protected from grazing. When the river was straightened (1940’s?) it was left in the field. I had no idea what an ox bow was so asked Richard:
The river naturally formed this natural shape, the closed up U, like the bow put around neck of an ox or bullock. After the war everything was done to grow food. Fields straightened and combined, hedegrorws came down. The river was straightened, just a line across the narrow point. There is a shadow on the green of it’s old passage. Rivers like to meander, and this and other changes meant our river dropped by 5 feet – it used to be as following as the Bungay Waveney. The Chestnut survived to represent the tale. You can see it on old photographs.
SWAN LANE OAK POLLARD
We did not have time to embrace this old Oak Pollard on this walk but I recommend the detour. It was magnificent to find, amid a housing and very close to the homes recently built. There must have been a person or people who fought for leaving it. It is a classic oak pollard in very good condition. A few branches overhanging the alotments have been pruned. Its circumference is 4.6meters, which makes it approximately 362 years old.
How to calculate a trees age from the circumference is described here:
Willow, crack (Salix fragilis) is the most common willow on the Millenium Green, and the largest growing, easily ‘cracking’, the sound made when its branches and twigs fall, which they often do. Because the trees often grow beside rivers, any twigs that break off are carried downstream. This helps the trees propagate themselves, as the branches take root easily and may end up some distance away from where they fell.
Goat Willow (Salix caprea) has smaller rounder leaves and attractive puffy catkins. Sometimes known as great sallow
Grey Willow (Salix cinerea subsp. oleifolia). Small sallow
Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)
Bebb Willow (Salix bebbiana)
Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortusa’)
Narrowleaf Willow (Salix exigua)
LIME TREES – along Bird Folly and Holton road in front of the Fire Station
Lime, small-leaved (Tilia cordata) and Lime, common (Tilia x europaea).
Large leaved lime has hairs all over the underside. Very popular with Victorians, often planted in avenues or road sides, the Poplar oven has spurs at its base, and we discussed this on our second walk – why cut them back? Do they detract from the main? The jury out on this. However Jon contributed a name for the seed and leaf – commonly known as ball and bat. Gill reminded us of how good the infusion of Lime flower is, and good for us.
The Lime has Long been associated with fertility. Lime wood is soft and light, white-yellow and finely textured. It is easy to work and often used in turnery, carving and furniture making. The wood does not warp and is still used today to make sounding boards and piano keys. Limes can be coppiced and used for fuel, hop-poles, bean-sticks, cups, ladles, bowls and even Morris dancing sticks.
Halesworth Burrial Board was formed in 1884 and Holton Road Cemetery opened in January 1855 at a cost of £1,000. It was extended in 1896 and covers 3 acres. The oldest headstone found is that of Elizabeth Took who died 1857. The old section at the entrance has a chapel on the left (see above) used by the Anglicans and they were also buried on the left. The chapel on the right was used by Non conformists and they were buried on the right on unconsecrated ground.
The chapels were refurbished in 1988 by Woolnaughs Funeral Service, who now used them. The drought friendly white gardens were created with sponsorship from an anonymous donor, and maintained by HIB.
A frequently trimmed Giant Sequoia (sometimes known as Wellingtonia -John Lindley of the Horticultural Society, was assigned the task of naming the introduction, opted for the decidedly un-American ‘Wellingtonia gigantea’ to commemorate the lately deceased Duke of Wellington) is between the Holm Oaks and the chapels.
Janet’s notes: Halesworth Burial Board Minute Book 1955
12 November 1898
Mr Ritlow met Lord Suffields Head Gardener, Ipswich to discuss planting. Trees planted at intervals along fences, clumps of trees and shurbs at eah of NE and NW corners. Alongside each side of cross and centre paths to be planted small dark yew or fir trees about 4 ft high and 18 to 24 inches in diameter.
500 trees and shrubs of various kinds @15/- to 20/- per hundred £5.00.00
Cutting down old fence and making new £12.10.00
Altering ditch £2.10.00
Labour planting shrubs £5.00.00
HOLM OAK (Quercus ilex)
Holm Oak, native to the Eastern Mediterranean, was introduced to Britain in the late 1500s.
Like the Sessile oak, the female flowers develop into acorns, smaller and more pointed tip. Trees are resistant to salt-spray from the sea, and are often planted as a windbreak in coastal situations. (Typically the avenue at Holkam Norfolk)
Holm oak is not as valuable to wildlife as native English and sessile oaks, but its catkins provide a source of pollen for bees and other insects, while its dense, evergreen canopy offers year-round shelter for birds.
Holm oak timber is incredibly hard and strong. The Romans used the wood for making the wheels of carts and carriages, as well as agricultural tools. Today it is sometimes used for firewood as it is slow and long lasting. Holm oak acorns are used to feed pigs reared for Iberico ham.
It was in one of the groves of the high coppice Holm oak that a small fungi nestled. Neil diagnosed a species of Ganoderma. Impossible to say which until it is old enough to produce spores and he could measure them, but the odds are it will turn out to be G. australe – the Southern Bracket (sister of the Artist’s Fungus)
FOR THE LOVE OF EVERGREENS, native and foreign
How to tell the difference between PINE, FIR, SPRUCE, YEW, CYPRUS, CEDAR
Without doubt, the most important information to identify is observed in the needles.
PINE – Always grow in clusters from a single origin point on a branch, are often sensually soft and tend to grow to greater lengths than other conifers.
SPRUCE – These needles tend to be short and stiff. Unlike the needles of a pine, these tend to grow from a single origin point and are attached to small, stalk-like woody projections.
FIR Needles are soft and flat. Grow from a single point of origin like a spruce, but are attached to the branch in a manner resembling a suction cup.
YEW – More easily identified because yew tends to form small shrubs, yews could be mistaken as fir tree because of their flat needles.
CYPRESS, Arborvitae, and Juniper
Cypress and arborvitae tend to develop flat, scaled needles and have rather flexible branches. Junipers have short, spiky needles.
Cedar – Needles tend to be fern-like and have a strong scent when rolled between your fingers. The needles are similar to those of pine trees, except they are much shorter.
Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)
Scots pine is an evergreen conifer native to northern Europe, and is the only truly native pine in the UK. As the largest and longest-lived tree in the Caledonian Forest, the Scots Pine is a keystone species, forming the ‘backbone’ on which many other species depend. Scots pine is the most widely distributed conifer in the world, with a natural range that stretches from beyond the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia to southern Spain and from western Scotland to the Okhotsk Sea in eastern Siberia.
It is one of the strongest softwoods available, and is widely used in the construction industry and in joinery. It is used in the manufacture of telegraph poles, pit props, gate posts and fencing. The tree can also be tapped for resin to make turpentine. Other uses include rope made from the inner bark, tar from the roots and a dye from the cones. Dry cones can be used as kindling for fires.
CEDAR (Cedrus libani)
Cedar was thought to represent purification and protection, and represents incorruptibility and eternal life. In the UK, cedar was planted in nearly every stately home and mansion from the 1740s onwards, however it is not commonly planted today.
Today cedar is used for its hard, durable wood, which retains a sweet fragrance for many years. An oil similar to turpentine can be obtained from the wood.
Cypress, Lawson (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana)
Lawson cypress is a dioecious evergreen tree native to California. It was introduced to Britain in 1854. There are now many ornamental cultivars.
Looks: a narrowly conical tree , the trunk often forks, the bark is cracked into vertical plates and the twigs are a dark bluish-grey. Leaves: short scale-like leaves are grouped in fours and hide the twigs, forming flat planes. They are closely pressed together producing flat sprays of foliage. They are green with a whitish tinge underneath. Could be confused with: true cypresses (Cupressus x leylandii).
The wood, which is strong and light is highly valued in Japan for coffin and shrine construction. It is also used to make arrow shafts and musical instruments, especially guitars.
YEW (Taxus baccata)
Yew has long been associated with churchyards and there are at least 500 churchyards in England which contain yew trees older than the building itself – ten yew trees in Britain are believed to predate the 10th century. It is not clear why, but it has been suggested that yew trees were planted on the graves of plague victims to protect and purify the dead, but also that graveyards were inaccessible to cows, which would die if they ate the leaves or seed.
Yew trees were used as symbols of immortality, but also seen as omens of doom. For many centuries it was the custom for yew branches to be carried on Palm Sunday and at funerals. In Ireland it was said that the yew was ‘the coffin of the vine’, as wine barrels were made of yew staves.
Yew trees contain the highly poisonous taxane alkaloids that have been developed as anti-cancer drugs. Eating just a few leaves can make a small child severely ill and fatalities have occurred. All parts of the tree are poisonous, with the exception of the bright red arils. The black seeds inside them should not be eaten as they contain poisonous alkaloids.
HORNBEAM COPPICE (Carpinus betulus)
On the bank above the old cemetery is a magnificent Hornbeam Coppice. The body of the tree – these September days full of papery, green winged fruits, known as samaras – can be seen on the top side of the bank.
The name hornbeam comes from the hardness of its timber – ‘horn’ means ‘hard’ and ‘beam’ was the name for a tree in old English.
Like beech, a hornbeam hedge will keep its leaves all year round, providing shelter, roosting, nesting and foraging opportunities for birds and small mammals.
Hornbeam is the food plant for caterpillars of a number of moth species, including the nut tree tussock. Finches and tits and small mammals eat the seeds in autumn.
A tonic made from hornbeam was said to relieve tiredness and exhaustion, and its leaves were used to stop bleeding and heal wounds.
Traditional used for the wood included ox-yokes (a wooden beam fitted across the shoulders of an ox to enable it to pull a cart), butchers’ chopping blocks and cogs for windmills and water mills. It was also coppiced and pollarded for poles.
ASH POLLARD (Fraxinus excelsior)
This is a boundary Ash, planted along the ditch boundary with Holton. It is a reasonably old pollard.
Ash trees airy canopy and early leaf fall allow sunlight to reach the woodland floor, providing optimum conditions for wildflowers such as dog violet, wild garlic and dogs mercury, and consequently insects such as the rare and threatened high brown fritillary butterfly.
Bullfinches eat the winged seeds and woodpeckers, owls, redstarts and nuthatches use the trees for nesting. Because trees are so long lived, they support deadwood specialists such as the lesser stag beetle. Often ash is accompanied by a hazel understory, providing the perfect conditions for dormice. Ash bark is often covered with lichens and mosses. The leaves are an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of moth, including the coronet, brick, centre-barred sallow and privet hawk-moth.
Cemetery hedge row and the debate of IVY – is it good or bad?
The hedgerow around the cemetery, according to Richard, is one of the most diverse hedgerows in Halesworth is around the cemetery and as you know (he says) diversity is a proxy for age.
Ivy doesn’t harm trees. The biggest myth concerning ivy is that it damages trees, but this isn’t necessarily true. Ivy is not a parasite – it lays down roots, meaning it doesn’t need to take sustenance from the tree. Ivy doesn’t suffocate or strangle a tree, but simply uses it to climb up in its endeavour to reach the light.
It’s an invaluable late-season nectar source. In autumn ivy has small yellow flowers, providing valuable nectar for an array of insects when few other pollinating flowers or sources of nectar are available. Wasps, hornets, hoverflies, bumblebees, small tortoiseshells, peacock butterflies and red admirals all make use of ivy’s late-season bounty. The nectar provides essential reserves needed by the adult admiral butterfly to hibernate over winter.
Ivy provides year-round shelter
A winter lifeline for wildlife. Ivy is the plant equivalent of a 24/7 grocery store for animals. The dark berries provide an essential food source through the harsh winter months for many birds including blackbirds, thrushes and wood pigeons. Ivy also has an additional benefit of serving as year-round ground cover. It roots at many points, with stems that cover a wide area. This notably reduces the effect of frost hardening the ground in winter months, which means animals can continue to forage in the leaf litter during bitter weather.
Ivy can protect buildings. The effect of ivy on historic monuments was such a significant issue that English Heritage carried out a three-year project with Oxford University to determine the true effects of ivy growing on walls. The findings were good news for ivy-lovers: in winter ivy keeps walls 15% warmer than other parts of the building, and in summer walls were recorded to be 36% cooler. Ivy’s protective properties also preserves walls from frost, salt and pollution. As with trees, if there is any existing damage to a structure, ivy will add to the problem as it roots into cracks and crevices. So unless your walls or trees are vulnerable, there’s no need to remove ivy.
Copper BEECH (Fagus sylvatica f. purpurea) at MAGNOLIA HOUSE
We end our walk here in the garden of Magnolia House, a fine Georgian home, built around 1850, and probably the copper beech planted at the same time. It is a rare survivor of a specimen tree in a town garden, and dominates Station road – imagine the road without it.
Copper beech, also known as purple beech, is a cultivar of common beech, and appeared as natural mutants in Europe as early as the 15th century. It is now classified as native in the south of England.
As with common beech, the foliage of copper beech is eaten by the caterpillars of a number of moths, including the barred hook-tip, clay triple-lines and olive crescent. The seeds are eaten by mice, voles, squirrels and birds.
Like common beech, copper beech timber is used for a variety of purposes, including fuel, furniture, cooking utensils, tool handles and sports equipment. The wood burns well and was traditionally used to smoke herring. The edible nuts, or masts, were once used to feed pigs, and in France they are still sometimes roasted and used as a coffee substitute.
One memorable moment, when i instructed my dogs to sit and stay the side of the barrow crossing, and turning back I found the whole of the 2nd walk had obeyed the same!
It’s been a pleasure to discover this walk, these trees, the cut through footpaths that I didn’t know were there, a chance to look up and notice those thees I had been walking past for some years. It was an excuse to see Richard Woolnaugh, who I thank and think of each time I walk on the path that meanders through the Millenium Green.