This month, we held the first tree walk in the City of Wells. About 20 minutes in the car from Glastonbury, Wells is a place I regularly enjoy walking, it has a range of native and non-native trees and an accessible woodland, Tor Hill Woods, just on the edge of town. The walk itself was well attended with 12 adults and 3 children, half die-hard Glastonbury tree walkers and half new faces, visitors and residents to Wells.
We embarked on a gentle walk around the moat heading for Tor Hill Woods, visiting a few non-native trees along the way. We stopped first at the recreation grounds, entering near the bandstand onto the green to enjoy the row of plane trees. When approaching the avenue from the moat side, one is struck by the size of the first tree, its girth is in excess of 4 metres, which might allow us to estimate its age at around 150 years old. The trees in the avenue grow smaller as you proceed along the line, ten trees in total, the last in the row might be around 50 years old.
This park was given to the people of Wells in 1887 in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. The first plane tree may have been planted in 1887, and taking into account that it might have been a few years old when it went in, this makes our estimate of age seem just about right. Perhaps one was planted for each decade of reign. Only a theory of course, but a fascinating little observation I would love to get to the bottom of.
We lingered on the bandstand green to meet two other younger trees, first the living fossil, a young Ginkgo Biloba, bi-lobe referring to it’s early and new growth leaves, which appear to be split in the middle and gave rise to the following poem by Goethe, a poem of great significance in Germany. The following is one of many versions translated into English from German:
This leaf from a tree in the East,
Has been given to my garden.
It reveals a certain secret,
Which pleases me and thoughtful people.
Does it represent One living creature
Which has divided itself?
Or are these Two, which have decided,
That they should be as One?
To reply to such a Question,
I found the right answer:
Do you notice in my songs and verses
That I am One and Two?
We spoke about the Gingko’s method of reproduction which illustrates a stepping stone in evolution from water based plants to land based. We talked about the ginkgo’s brush with extinction, its smelly nuts, its beautiful autumn colours, and the eagerness with which the tree has been adopted by cities as a street tree, or planted for some significant occurrence, birth or death, as I believe might be the case here, though there is no plaque to explain so.
Next door to the Ginkgo is a Princess tree, Paulownia Tomentosa, or foxglove tree, named so after its elaborate floral display that resembles its namesake. Like foxglove, Paulownia relies on the bees to pollinate its flowers; it has evolved large bilaterally shaped flowers to attract them. Most large trees use the wind and so have no need for the decorative addition of flower petals, catkins for example, or the naked flowers of Ash. To see large decorative flowers on a tall tree is quite a striking sight. This tree is already preparing its blue flowers in tall loose clusters called panicles, much like horse chestnuts, which will emerge in spring before the leaves. I hope to catch this one in flower during the next Wells tree walk on 5th March. It must also be noted that the Princess tree is a very quick growing tree and an invasive species, not to be planted willy-nilly!
From the bandstand green we headed back to the moat to continue our walk, stopping briefly to entertain ourselves with Norway Maple’s helicopter seeds, which were flying well. Our next stop was the young dawn redwood that stands next to the 8 mile stone on the corner of the moat. Metasequoia Glyptostroboides, a mouthful indeed, is another living fossil thought to be extinct before handfuls of them were discovered living in remote areas of China. It’s one of a few coniferous tree (cone bearing) that looses its needles in the autumn, while turning then a bright orange. Dawn Redwood is also my favourite name tree name!
By this time there was a real momentum to the walk, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. We proceeded up the moat’s Eastern side towards Tor Hill Woods, visiting the Norway Maple and a veteran beech, before introducing the old holm (holly) oak standing at the gateway to the woods. On the subject of holly oaks, my Dad recently posted on To The Trees fb group a picture of a tree that had been puzzling him, seemingly an English oak, but this one liked to hold onto some of its leaves during the winter. Its leaves appeared more glossy than English oak. After a little bit of digging around, it turned out this was indeed a hybrid called a “Turner’s” oak, a hybrid of our native English Oak and the Holm oak (Q robur x Q. Ilex = Quercus x Turneri ‘Pseudo Turneri’ ).
Looking closely at the leaves we can observe little prickles on the end of each of the leaf lobes, a fascinating discovery. Later this month I will plant a handful of native trees with my Dad out at Paddington farm, I look forward to watching them grow.
We carried on along the edge of the woods, meeting a horse chestnut, identifying a fallen ash and discovering its King Alfred’s cakes, before stopping to sing a song to an upturned ash tree, half its roots still in the ground, leaning upon its neighbour a yew tree.
As the walk drew to a close, we greeted the birch trees in the park, offering two poems, one about birch in the daytime, the other about birch at night.
We walked back towards town at a leisurely pace, chatting and having a sociable time. From the feedback, it seemed a thoroughly good time was had by all. I can surely say that this walk has further invigorated my passion for walking to the trees and might have made it into my top 10 favourite walks of all time!
I look forward to arranging a monthly walk in Wells throughout 2022, and I hope to see you there.
The next Wells tree walk is on Sat 5th March 2022. More info – Fb Event.
Frome Freelancers Netwalk
I really enjoyed leading a tree walk for the Frome Freelancers networking group earlier this month. We were a group of 10 people, starting at the Cheese and Grain in central Frome. We stopped first to meet the carpark birch trees, offering them a poem, before heading over to Rodden Meadows to explore the riverside trees, willow, alder, a notable oak, the young elms, ash and then concluded the walk with a short discussion at the veteran sycamore on the hill.
In planning this walk I considered how we could look to nature and the trees for ways of envisioning, working and improving our lives and projects. The root question being: “What can we learn from how trees behave, how they grow, nurture, network and adapt, and apply this to our own lives and projects?”
I came up with the following thoughts which I presented to the group at the end of the walk:
The project as a tree
I like to imagine my project as a tree. The tree’s crown, trunk, and branches are representative of our outward efforts, how our project appears in the world, the front facing aspect, which can sometimes take a lot of our attention. Perhaps we sometimes fail to recognise the extent of what lies beneath the surface, the roots and networks that carry nutrients throughout the tree, all the supporting work, the cyclical, even mundane processes that we must go through to make our projects a success.
Competition / Collaboration
Everything is not a competition, collaboration and community are keys to making our projects successful. If we understand that there is abundance made accessible through collaboration and cooperation this can dramatically alter the way we approach our business.
A tree will continue to spread its roots to find neighbouring trees, they know that it’s better to connect and collaborate. A connected tree in a forest will ask the network for what they lack, the tree realises its need to be a strong member of the community, it looks to the community for what it needs to make it so, it will also readily provide its excess resources to those who need it.
If a tree starts to experience more competition for resources, it will grow a new branch, or it will start to grow its current branches into a position where sunlight is more readily available. Trees are willing to change their form in order to flourish. I’m not saying we should start sprouting new limbs, but if we think of the project as a tree, and its branches as facets of our project, if a facet (branch) lacks attention, send more nutrients (attention) there and help it to lift into a healthier position, or develop new branches all together, to take advantage of unoccupied space.
We should also consider if there is anything of excess that needs to be chopped back. Trees readily drop branches that become of no use. Are there aspects of our projects that could be pruned to allow for fresh sprouting and fuller growth in other areas?
The tree’s structure gives us something sturdy on which to grow the different facets of our business. I find it very helpful to draw this structure, segmenting the different facets of my project and identifying where my attention, or nutrients, needs to be focused.
To make our trees beautiful we must ensure that the whole tree provided with the relevant nutrients (attention) to allow for our project to continue to flourish in a balanced way. Good growth is slow and steady, quick growth leads to weak weedy trees. It’s ok to grow slowly and steadily and to develop our projects in a more organic way, i.e. nurturing into growth, nourishing soil and roots, making a much healthier and stronger tree in the long run.
The thought experiment by which one pictures their project as a tree itself has been helpful to me in growing and nurturing my own projects.
It encourages me to treat the project like a real alive thing, which it is, something I can care for and nurture. This change of view might allow us to approach our work from refreshed angles, and will certainly provide a clearer mind map of how our project looks and what needs attention.
I look forward to developing these ideas further with a view to holding a formal workshop during the Spring and Summer. If you have any ideas or feedback on these topics, please don’t hesitate to start a conversation.
With Love this February, thanks for tuning in.
MW – 6/02/22
P.S. Please consider leaving a donation via: https://ko-fi.com/mattwitt
The next Frome Netwalk will be in May – Dates TBC
You can find out more about the Frome Freelancers on their facebook group.
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Upcoming Tree Walks
Public Tree Walks – By donation (unless stated)
Meet at St John’s Church, High St, Glastonbury, unless stated.
Abbey Tree Walk & Talk
Note: Abbey Entry fee is not included
Meet the Abbey trees and learn Winter tree identification.
Sat 12th Mar – 11am – 12.30pm – £10pp
Book: 07548 936 081
Public Tree Walks, Glastonbury – By Donation
Sat 19th Feb – Public Tree Walk, Glastonbury – 11am – 1pm
Sat 19th Mar – Equinox Tree Walk, Glastonbury – 11am – 1pm
Book: 07548 936 081
Public Tree Walks, Wells- By Donation
Sat 5th Mar – Wells Tree Walk – £10pp – 11am – 12.30pm
Sat 2nd Apr – Wells Tree Walk – £10pp – 11am – 12.30pm
Book: 07548 936 081
Tree Identification Workshops
Sat 26th Feb – Winter Tree ID Workshop – 11am – 12.30pm – £10pp (children free)
Sat 26th Mar – Winter Tree ID Workshop – 11am – 12.30pm – £10pp (children free)
Book: 07548 936 081
Walks for individuals and groups, at a date and time to suit you.
Call Matt to book: 07548 936 081
A Visual Diary – Feb 2022
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