Like many tree care professionals, I am passionate about the wider environment and ecology. I appreciate the battles to be faced retaining the treasures that we have. There are those who see trees as an obstacle to development and an undeveloped meadow as an unfulfilled opportunity. I disagree. I don’t agree that ‘progress’ is automatically a good thing, to be embraced. Where we have treasures, their often irreplaceable qualities need to be emphasised. If something is not a treasure, we should recognise this.
Earlier this year, I was involved with a planning application for a site with a number of substantial oak trees, all of which have been retained. The site is Victorian, and yet a landscape officer raised objections to the proposals on the grounds that, with the oaks being ancient trees (at least 600 years old), they were being given insufficient space (BS5837:2012 does afford veteran trees more space than younger trees). In another case, a motorway service station has been proposed for the M42 in Warwickshire. Part of the proposed site contains ancient woodland. This has been present for at least 500 years. The developers helpfully have reassured that for every tree they need to fell, they will plant at least one replacement. This suggests that they haven’t appreciated what a treasure they have. Let’s shout this from the hill tops!
I was somewhat bemused to read a tweet last week about the fantastic Sweet Chestnuts at Croft Castle, in Herefordshire. This site, for me, is similar to a child going in to a sweet shop. Bliss! There is an avenue of Sweet Chestnuts within the grounds, and for decades, the speculation was that these were from the remains of the famously wrecked Spanish Armada in 1592 – so could be over 400 years old. More recently, there has been recognition that they are at least a century younger. Sweet Chestnuts were widely planted as landscape features in the 17th and 18th Centuries, which fits better with the position of this avenue within the grounds of Croft Castle.
There are many situations where we don’t know the facts. However, when it comes to the unknown, for me, it is better to be clear if we are speculating, even if a delightful story is lost in the process. The Sweet Chestnuts of Croft Castle are a national treasure. It is just more likely that they are part of a 17th century trend rather than being associated with the victory over the Spanish.