Making the best of troubled times
It’s been a funny old spring
At the time of writing in early May, we are still in a state of lockdown, so I hope you are all keeping well and safe during these difficult days. The past weeks have challenged even those of us who are used to working from home, but at the same time maybe it has been an opportunity to remind ourselves of our wonderful countryside in and around Trottiscliffe. We have a rich and diverse natural environment here with many notable trees to provide a welcome distraction from COVID19. Also, the traffic noise is lower and the air so much cleaner, so without detracting from the seriousness of the situation, maybe there’s a glimmer of an upside after all!
But Spring is sprung!
If you’re like me and a bit susceptible to low mood under the gloaming skies of winter, there’s nothing more cheering than seeing the hedgerows burst into life in early spring. One of the first to show off is the blackthorn, Prunus spinosa which, like many of its cherry relations, flowers before the leaves emerge. This absolute belter on the footpath from the Pilgrim’s Way by Commority down towards Coldrum Barrow will be a riot of sloes to feed the birds in autumn if the gin-lovers don’t get there first!
A lot of people think these early flowers are the hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna but these emerge later (appearing now in late April/May) – here’s one from Pinesfield Lane by the nature reserve.
And it’s not just the trees, the wildflowers are bursting into life in our verges and providing nectar for the early pollinators – one of my favourites at this time of year is greater stitchwort Stellaria holostea -every bit as attractive as any garden cultivar.
Or if that doesn’t float your boat, how about the dainty ladies’ smock, or cuckoo flower, Cardamine pratensis there’s a cluster of these on Taylor’s Lane near the start of the traffic “calming” zone (or the remaining bits of it the driveway contractors haven’t flattened).
These verges are full of wildlife and conceal those ugly post and wire fences – one to think about before we reach for the strimmer.
Thorny issues at Bramble Park
A few years ago, I was invited by Mike Towler to survey the many veteran trees within the grounds of Bramble Park for a Tree Council veteran Tree project. This project aimed to ascribe value and importance to our heritage trees – we do this for historic buildings so why not?!
As you may have seen, there is a planning application to convert the Park into an educational establishment. Putting to one side the potentially emotive issues over this in terms of traffic levels, I do have a real concern that there’s a risk of damage to these trees should the reconstruction go ahead. None are covered by TPOs because most are not visible from public areas and so have no “amenity value” – this is a real shame because some of them are wonderful and should be protected for future generations to enjoy. While the planning application makes provision for amelioration of damage through root zone protection, it’s important this is applied in practice – too often trees in construction areas are destroyed through wilful or inadvertent damage to the root structure.
The Coldrum beech
The area surrounding Coldrum Barrow is important beech woodland recognised by the Kent Downs AONG 2014-19 Management Plan. You can’t help but notice the splendid heritage beech Fagus sylvatica at the entrance to the site which is usually adorned with ribbons etc by those presumably embracing the ancient spirituality of the site.
What they (or other misguided individuals) have also done is to carve a LOT of graffiti into the bark, which is a shame aesthetically (beech have particularly smooth and tactile bark) and potentially endangers the tree as bark wounds may give an access point to fungal pathogens – bracket fungi which can in time destroy the heartwood of the tree. My old arb lecturer at Hadlow college told the tale of attending site to dismantle an ancient oak tree which had developed a very bad stem rot. To his horror, he recognised the initials he himself had carved into the bark some 20 years before right where the fungus had gained its fatal foothold!
I’ve written to the National Trust asking for help to avoid further damage but as yet they haven’t been helpful – fingers crossed mother nature smiles on this iconic tree.
That’s it for now folks, don’t forget you can contact me if you ‘d like to know more about the trees in your area – distancing guidance permitting!
Neil Moulton, Tree Warden for Trottiscliffe