In periods of social unrest public statues are often defaced or pulled down. Man-made buildings too are destroyed, as in Henry VIII’s Reformation, as a symbol of protest and change. Trees, on the other hand, planted to commemorate a special date or event, are an entirely different matter. Trees maintain their dignity and longevity. They go about the business of living quietly and conscientiously. They absorb pollutants in the atmosphere, provide us with oxygen, prevent flooding and land erosion, influence wind speed and temper climate. They also provide habitats for wildlife, and being near them improves our health too. Visit these attractions this summer to see some magnificent royal trees.
In the past two years or so I’ve spent more and more time in nature with long walks on the South Downs and traipsing around some of the incredible heritage sites in my region. I have also discovered the benefits of Forest Bathing and spent some time foraging with a professional forager on the Cowdray estate. Combining my love of food and nature it’s something I’m keen to do more of.
The more you look, really look, at trees you more fascibated you become with the myriad formations of different trunk sizes and shapes, the texture of their leaves, the seasonal changes from bud to leaf to flower to seed. The lifespan of a tree is remarkable and each has its own unique history.
With the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee approaching, I’ve chosen some of my favourite royal trees to share with you.
The word ‘hospital’ as in The Hospital of St Cross signifies hospitality. Set within the peaceful water meadows the stunning Almshouse is a Grade I listed medieval building featuring 14 chimneys, and named as ‘England’s oldest and most perfect’ example. The Norman church is all that remains of the original 12th century Hospital, with building beginning in 1135. The medieval Brothers’ Hall is also well worth visiting.
The garden features a walnut tree planted to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, and a tulip tree planted by Her Majesty Elizabeth The Queen Mother to commemorate her visit in 1986.
The cafe offers delicious homemade cakes with a pretty garden space to sit in the shade under an umbrella. The Master’s (or Compton’s) Garden is at its best in the summer months when the the borders are ablaze with colour and you can admire the fish in the lilly pond. As this is a living community the buildings and gardens are only open to visitors at certain times so check the web site for dates and times. Adult £7.50. hospitalofstcross.co.uk
Trivia: The garden at The Hospital of St Cross is named for Henry Compton, Master of St Cross from 1667-1675, who later became Bishop of London, when its diocese included America. The garden features both UK and American plant species.
A tulip tree in the Master’s Garden planted by Her Majesty Elizabeth The Queen Mother to commemorate her visit to the Hospital of St Cross on 8 July 1986. Photos hashtagtravelling.com.
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”Robert Louis Stevenson
Medlar trees have been grown in Britain since the Roman times. The fruits are very hard and best used for cooking.
It is thought that the walled garden at the country manor of Hinton Ampner dates back to Tudor times and was probably the hop garden orginally. As well as the Diamond Jubilee commemorative medlar tree planted here in 2012, there are some magnificent 19th-century espalier apple and pear trees, and a variety of organic fruits and vegetables. Look out for the scarecrow and his dog who keep an eye on the greedy birds. At Christmastime he wears a bright red Santa’s hat!
Keep an eye out too for the free garden tours which last an hour or so and are displayed on a chalk board in the walled garden. On a visit this week our guide, garden volunteer Roy, was so knowledgable about the history of Hinton Ampner (the Tudor bowling green and the site of a major battle between the Roundheads and the Royalists in the English Civil War), and happy to share all his tips on the many varied plants.
Visitors are welcome at Hinton Ampner almost year-round, although the manor house is closed at certain times so check the web site before you drop in. There are longer walks around the estate, plenty of spots to enjoy a picnic, gorgeous views of the surrounding countryside, a cafe and a secondhandbookshop (which is currently moving to a larger space), as well as the standard gift shop. Adult Standard ticket £14.00. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hinton-ampner
Did you know?
Many of the UK’s oldest trees have no legal protection. The Woodland Trust is petitioning to protect these living legends.
“Three quarters of ancient trees are found outside of legally protected wildlife sites.” www.woodlandtrust.org.uk
Planting 70 trees in 2022 for The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at National Trust properties around Britain. L to R: to include Anglesey Abbey, Cambridgeshire; Mussenden Temple, County Londonderry; Box Hill, Surrey; Tredegar House, Newport, and more properties. Photos courtesy the National Trust.
Travel saving tip: Financially these are challenging times for many. It doesn’t mean you have to miss out on cultural experiences or the benefits of nature. Annual membership of the National Trust bestows free entry to properties throughout the year. Share the joining cost for a single membership and the price of tickets each time you visit, e ffectively a 50% reduction for you and a family member or a friend each time you visit a property.
More Royal Trees
Trees not only share water and nutrients but communicate, alerting each other to diseases and so on. Four beech trees at the ancient Neolithic site at Avebury in Wiltshire have huddled so close together that their roots have intermingled in a beautiful pattern above ground. Their leaves form a wide shady canopy and it is hard not to feel a sense of awe and humility, rather like standing in a temple of nature. Such is the effect, that people tie little tokens in the branches and roots.
Tree growth happens so slowly it is barely noticeable. We plant a tree, or a seed naturally takes root, and one day we look up and, like a growing child, it now towers over us. When did that happen we wonder? Long after we have gone, the tree continues the history of its own life and that of its ‘community’.
Elizabeth I Oak
Elizabeth I hunted at the 16,000-acre Cowdray estate in West Sussex and stood, bow in hand, beneath the magnificent English oak tree. It’s a mind-bending fact that oaks can grow for 1,000 years or more. That’s over ten times most of us will hope to survive! The Elizabeth I Oak is one of the largest trees in Britain and from one side appears fully intact. Walk around the tree and you will see that it has, over the centuries, become squat as it has continues to grow and spread despite its advancing age. In 1997 its girth was recorded at 40′ 1″. The inside has hollowed-out as the external layer of a tree is the part that is alive. A cross-section of a tree trunk can therefore reveal its age by the ‘rings’formed in the wood.
Cowdray Estate near Midhurst in West Sussex features a very good farm shop, a cafe, and Cowdray Ruins. There are also long walks around parts of the estate to enjoy. The early Tudor house ruins are not generally open to the public except for special occasions, such as National Heritage Open Day, so check the web site for updates. www.cowdray.co.uk
Buckingham Palace Garden
Finally, the most royal of gardens. The Queen’s 39 acre garden at Buckingham Palace is a hideaway in the centre of busy London. The garden dates back to 1608 when James I established a plantation of mulberry trees for the rearing of silkworms.
Buckingham Palace garden. All photographs hashtagtravelling.com.
Other features include many mature trees, a lake, 325 wild-plant species, 30 species of breeding birds, and over 1,000 trees, including 98 plane trees and 85 different species of oak. Exit the historic house at the rear and meander along the pathway through the gardens to a tiny door in the wall. Stepping through, you are back in the real world of 21st century bustle. It is a magical experience. If you are unable to visit I recommend Claire Masset’s book Buckingham Palace A Royal Garden with stunning photography by John Campbell.
Find out where you can see some of Her Majesty’s beautiful jewels, tiaras and brooches this summer. To mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee The Royal Collection Trust is displaying a selection of exquisite pieces at three royal residences, including Buckingham Palace. More… Jewellery and Jubilee Fever.
Tickets prices correct at time of publishing but please check individual web sites for the latest visitor information.