Rambling with the Warden
This should probably be called “The Rambling Warden” as I tend to include information that pops into my mind covering trees, flora and fauna, the derivation of various place and field names- where I have been able to trace them and a load of other, as my husband puts “useless information,” but I hope that you will find something of interest among my meanderings and that you don’t get too frustrated!
I am Gill Salter, the Tree Warden for Wootton Bridge Parish Council. Obviously I have an abiding interest in trees and shrubs that grow in the woods and hedgerows. But in studying the trees one also becomes aware of the interaction between trees and woods and the flora and fauna associated with them and so the subject becomes quite wide ranging.
Whilst not quite “potty about trees,” although some might apply that sobriquet, I am perfectly capable of burbling on indefinitely about their attributes, physiology, origins etc. until a glazed look appears on the face of the hapless listener. I am no expert by any means and anything I know has been gleaned from studying many books and sources, observation and consulting those who do know more that I.
First of all let me explain what a tree warden is. He/she is a volunteer with an interest in preserving the health and welfare of trees. Tree Wardens are appointed by their parish or town councils and depending on the requirements of said organisations the duties can include surveys, tree planting, hedge laying, writing articles, liaising with land owners and the Local Authority, advising the public on their tree problems (I run a surgery on the first Friday of every month at the parish drop in office to meet this need) guided walks and any other countryside or tree related activity that one can fit into their schedule.
There are 63 species of trees and shrubs that are considered to be native to this country. They are considered to have arrived without human agency after the last Ice Age and Britain’s isolation by flooding of the North Sea. It is generally possible to find this list in any good field guide, but for your use here is the list. It excludes any hybrids and those species that are considered shrubs.
- Field Maple-Acer campestre.*
- Common Alder—Alnus glutinosa.*
- Strawberry Tree—Arbutus unedo.
- Silver Birch-Betula pendula,*
- DownyBirch—Betula pubescens.*
- Box-Buxus semperivens.*
- Hornbeam—Carpinus betulus.*
- Dogwood—-Cornus sanguinea.*
- Hazel—Corylus avelana.*
- Midland Thorn—Crataegus laevigata.
- Hawthorn—Ctatagus monogyna.*
- Spindle—Euonymus europaeus.*
- Beech—**** sylvestra.*
- Alder Buckthorn— Frangula alnus.
- Common Ash—Fraxinus excelsior.*
- Sea Buckthorn—Hippophae rhamunoides.
- Holly—Ilex aquifolium.*
- Juniper—Juniperus communis.
- Scots Pine—Pinus sylvetrus.*
- White Poplar—Populus alba. *
- Black Poplar—Populus nigra sub species betulifolia.
- Aspen—Populus tremula. *
- Wild Cherry—Prunus avium.*
- Bird Cherry—Prunus padus.
- Blackthorn—Prunus spinosa. *
- Plymouth Pear—Pyrus cordata.
- Wild Pear—Pyrus pyraster*
- Sessile oak—Quercus petraea*
- English Oak__ Quercus robur *
- Purging Buckthorn—Rhamnus carthartica
- White Willow—Salix alba.
- Goat Willow—Salix caprea.*
- Grey Willow—Saix cinerea subspecies oleifolia.
- Crack Willow— Salix fragilis.
- Bay Willow— Salix pentandra.
- Purple Osier— salix purpurea.
- Almond Willow— salix triandra.
- Common Osier— Salix virminalis.
- Elder—Sambucus nigra.*
- Sorbus anglica—found in S W England, Wales and County Kerry.
- White Beam—Sorbus aria.
- Arran White Beam—Sorbus arranensis.
- Rowan— Sorbus aucuparia.*
- Bristol Service— Sorbus bristoliensis.
- French hales—Sorbus devoniensis.
- True Service— Sorbus domestica.
- Sorbus eminens—found in the Wye valley and Avon Gorge.
- Sorbus hibernia—found in Central Ireland.
- Sorbus lancastriensis.. found in S **** style=”margin-right: 0cm;”>Sorbus porringentiformis.found in N Devon, Mendips and S Wales.
- Arran Service—Sorbus rupicola found in the limestone uplands.
- Exmoor Service— Sorbus torminalis.
- Sorbus vexans—found in N Devon.
- Sorbus wilmottiana found in the Avon Gorge.
- Common Yew—Taxus baccata.*
- Small leaved Lime— Tilia cordata.
- Broad Leaved Lime— Tilia platyphylos.*
- Wych Elm— Ulmus glabra*
- European White Elm— Ulmus laevis.
- Field Elm—Ulmus minor.* these are mostly found as hedgerow clones as the mature trees were decimated by Dutch Elm disease.
- There are a number of trees that have been introduced over the centuries that have naturalized well and tend to almost be considered as native —
- Norway Maple—Acer plantanoids.*
- Sycamore—Acer pseudoplantanus.*
- Horse Chestnut—Aesculus hippocastanum.*
- Snowy Mespil—Amelanchier lamarckii.
- Sweet Chestnut— Castanea sativa *
- Medlar— Mespilus germanica.
- Grey Poplar— Populus canescens.
- Myrobalan Plum— Prunus cerasifera * awaiting fruits to confirm.
- Sour Cherry— Prunus cerasus.
- Common Plum— Prunus domestica.
- Bullace— Prunus institia. awaiting fruits to confirm.
- Cherry Laurel— Prunus laurocerasus.*
- Portugal Laurel— Prunus lusitanica.*
- St Lucie Cherry—Prunus mahaleb.
- Black Cherry—Prunus serotina.
- Common Pear—Pyrus communis.
- Turkey oak—Quercus cerns.*
- Holme Oak— Quercus ilex.*
- False Acacia— Robina pseudoacacia.
- Sorbus croceocarpa.
- Tamarisk— Tamarisk gallica.
All the trees that are starred have been found to date (2010) within the woods and hedgerows of Wootton. No doubt more will emerge! There are other species that I have found that are not included in these lists that will be dealt with later.
Have you ever considered the definition of a tree? A tree is a woody, perennial plant that can grow 6m or more on a single stem before dividing into branches. It may divide low down but not at ground level.
A shrub is a woody, perennial plant that divides at ground level.
There are two species that can be considered to fall into the category of trees, the hawthorn as it has been known to reach over 6m on a single stem, although it is more commonly seen a shrub growing in hedgerows. The hazel can be treated as a tree as it is capable of growing a long stem, but some authorities might disagree.
Before I continue, those of you who might question the veracity of some of the information given, I have included a list of some of the sources I have consulted. You might find some of them useful yourselves.
- Sylva-a discource of Forest Trees—John Evelyn 2nd ed. Published 1670 by the Royal Society.
- Collins Tree Guide—Owen Johnson and David More.
- A Field Guide to the Trees of Britain and Northern Europe—Alan Mitchell pub Collins.
- Trees in Britain, Europe and North America— Roger Phillips pub. Ward Lock.
- The Complete Guide to trees of Britain and Northern Europe— Alan Mitchell pub Parkgate Books.
- Alan Mitchell’s Trees of Britain. Pub Collins.
- A History of English Forestry—N.D.G, James. Pub. Basil Blackwood, Oxford.
- Landscapes and Season of the Mediaeval World—D. Pearsall and Elizabeth Salter. Pub. Paul Elek, London.
- Woodlands—Oliver Rackham. Pub Collins.
- Trees and Woodlands in the British Landscape—Oliver Rackham. Pub. Phoenix.
- British Woodland Trees—H L Edlin. Pub Batsford.
- Trees Woods and man—HL Edlin. Pub Collins.
- The History of the Countryside—Oliver Rackham Pub Phoenix.
- Trees in the Landscape –Graham Stuart Thomas .Pub the National Trust.
- Ancient Woodland—Oliver Rackham. Pub castlepoint Press.
- Trees, their use, management, cultivation and biology— Bob Watson. Pub The Crowod Press.
- Veteran Trees- A guide to good management— Helen Read. Pub English nature, The Countryside Agency and English heritage.
- Hedgerows, their history and Wildlife—Richard and Nina Muir..
- Epitaph for the Elm—Gerald Wilkinson. Pub Book Club Associates.
- The British oak—M G Morris and F H Perring .Pub. for the Botanical Society of the British Isles by E W Cassey Ltd.
- Know Your broadleaves.
- Know your conifers.
- A Brief Guide to Britain’s principle trees—these htree Forestry Commisssion. Pub by HMS O 1968.
- The Heritage of Tree of Britain and Northern Ireland— Jon Stokes and Donald Rogers. Pub in association with the Tree Council by Constable.
- Diagnosis of Ill Health in Trees—R G Strouts and T G Winter.
The Importance of Trees.
Thank goodness for that I hear you say. Will that woman never stop whittering? She does seem to like lists! Well yes, but only if I think they might be of use. Now I will tell you, if I’m not already preaching to the converted, why trees are so important in our environment.
Yes, another b—list!!!
- Trees produce oxygen via photosynthesis and lock in carbon dioxide.
- Trees give off water into the atmosphere( transpire) via the green stem surfaces and leaves thus cooling the tree and surrounding area. Thus they have an effect on the climate and rainfall.
- Trees provide shelter, shade and protection and reduce pollution by locking it in.
- Trees provide materials for building, furniture, tools, veneers, musical instruments, tanning and some medicines and essential oils for perfumes.
- Trees provide a habitat for wild life.
- Trees reduce soil erosion and along with other plants reintroduce organic matter into the soil, improving fertility and stability of the ground.
- Trees planted along roads, railways and motorways reduce noise pollution and hide unsightly buildings.
- Trees can reduce wind speeds and add to the protection for plants growing beneath them or in their vicinity.
- Trees improve the landscape by providing an ever-changing outline and colour.
- Trees provide fragrance through their flowers, leaves and bark by producing and releasing essential oils.
- It is now recognised that patients—and others—able to look out on trees make a better recovery and enjoy a sense of well-being.
Of course there will be those who curse trees. I’m often told ‘Don’t get me wrong. I like trees but—–‘‘ They cut the light from my house and garden and I can’t get a decent T V reception’ is a favourite, followed by “the leaves block the gutters and drains and the roots are causing subsidence.” All these remarks are perfectly true and to a point, reasonable. But—when moving house take into account the proximity of any tree, particularly if it is not in your garden. Don’t move into the property and then expect the owner of the tree to oblige you by cutting it down. It might be wisest to consider another property. I realise this might be a contentious remark, but quite valid.
It’s entirely possible that the tree was there long before the house was built and therefore the developer has probably built too close to the tree. These days greater attention is paid by the planning department to the position of trees within the proposed development and the Tree Officer may suggest that the plans are altered or that the culprit can be removed but a sapling of the same or similar species is planted as a replacement. One of my jobs is to check that this condition has been carried out.
When planting a decorative tree in your garden do consult a reputable nurseryman who will be able to tell you the maximum height and root spread that it will produce. Not all decorative trees a re suitable for the average urban garden. It might also be diplomatic to mention to your neighbour that you are considering removing or planting a hedge between the properties and do take advice about suitable hedge shrubs/trees. Remember, both need maintenance and whilst you might be able to maintain your side, your neighbour might not be able to manage their side.
However, apart from this advice—and complaints—I think you will find that the advantages trees bring to the environment far out-way the disadvantages.
The Biology of the tree—in brief—
The physiology and biology of a tree are quite interesting – well I think so, a few words about it may pique your interest and help you understand how trees work.
A tree is made up of a root system, a stem, bole or trunk that then divides after some 6m plus into branches. Each part has a specific part to play in the life of a tree.
Tree roots fall into three categories. There are the thick bark covered main roots arising from the trunk. These can increase size annually and act as water conductors and stabilizers. Lateral roots extend from these taking water and minerals from the fine rootlets that grow from the lateral. This system also works in symbiosis with mycorrhiza a type of fungus and the two systems are mutually compatible. The root system will extend way beyond the edge of the tree canopy (drip line).
The trunk of the tree is covered in a corky layer, the bark that protects the internal workings of the tree from infection—hopefully. This layer can present as smooth as in beech and hornbeam, or cracked and fissured like the oak. Inside the bark is a softer layer of cells that produce the bark; the cells that contain the mechanism for conducting sugars from the leaves down to the roots called the phloem. Immediately adjacent to these cell is another sappier layer of cells that produce and contain the system by which water, minerals and food is carried from the roots up to the leaves called the xylem. The whole of this section from the bark to the inner sappy layer is called the cambium. This sappier layer produces the growth rings that, at the end of the growing season, darken and harden to produce the annual rings. Inside of this is the heartwood, the solid bit that gives the tree a degree of stability and is the valuable bit for commercial purposes from which planks and sections are cut for building, furniture etc.
The trunk then divides into branches that in turn sub divide into smaller branches and twigs that carry the leaves. This in my book is the miracle bit. The canopy made up of leaves is a marvellous chemical factory. The leaves are made up of cells containing green chlorophyll that react with sun light- photosynthesis- to produce sugars. They take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.
When autumn begins the need for chlorophyll stops and it starts to break down and a yellowish pigment, carotenoid that have been masked by the chlorophyll become visible and produce the varied shades of fawns, browns and the marked bright yellow that some trees exhibit. In some species of tree the leaves carry cells that contain phenols, a colourless substance that wards off insects during the growing season. The phenols are also switched on at the onset of autumn and react with sugars to produce anthocyanins. This pigment can range from purple shades to flaming reds.
The onset of autumn means that the leaves are no longer required and another chemical or hormonal mechanism seals off the connection with the twig and the leaf eventually falls from the tree leaving a leaf scar.
This process works markedly in the deciduous trees—those whose leaves drop every year. Evergreen trees retain their waxy leaves through out winter, dropping them roughly every two to three years, but not all at the same time. The leaves of the evergreens are coated in a waxy substance to prevent the loss of moisture during drought or the harshness of winter.
Truly trees are remarkable!
Part of my brief was to include information about various walks that can be taken about Wootton; the wild life and fauna and flora. Now in order to identify trees or see any of the birds and wild life one has to walk and what better way to start than at Wootton’s landmark London Plane Tree opposite the Sloop Inn?
London Plane- Plantanus x acerifolia.
This specimen is thought to be about 200 years old and has a preservation order extant. It was planted by one of the earlier owners of Fernhill, the gothic mansion that once stood at the top end of the field where the Woodland Cemetery now stands. My personal feeling is that the tree and a similar one further up the bridleway, were planted by Thomas Orde, later to become Orde-Powlett, who became Lord Bolton, Governor of the Isle of Wight. He bought the estate in 1790 and built the house. Thomas Orde was seemingly a keen gardener as he planted up the gardens and lawn, that stretched to the banks of the mill pond, with many species of plants and shrubs, particularly with Arbutus or Strawberry trees, and his gardens were famed for their interest and beauty. Thomas Orde sold the estate in 1802 and it is entirely possible that subsequent owners continued to expand the collection.
The London Plane may be the first intercontinental hybrid to have been produced. Details are unclear but the hybrid was attributed to John Tradescant the Younger gardener to Charles 1st. It is thought that he brought seedlings or cuttings back from America and planted them in his garden at Lambeth where he was already growing the Oriental Plane. It is thought that hybrid seedling arose from cross-pollination between the two varieties and some of these hybrids he gave to Jacob Bobart at Oxford Botanical gardens circa 1670.
There is an alternative theory though and that the London Plane could be attributed to Bishop Glenning, who was at Ely between 1674-84, and is said to have planted a London Plane in the Bishop’s Palace opposite Ely Cathedral. Other specimens of the same tree planted at Ranelagh Park, Barnes, and possibly Woolbeding, Sussex and Peamore, Exeter.
The London Plane grows quickly and is tolerant of pollution, poor soil and does not appear to be affected by having its root system paved over. It is a tree that is fairly resistant to infections, although a few years ago all the Plane trees, including this one were infected by a fungus called anthracnose gnominia. Whilst this inhibits the growth of new shoots and leaves, the leaves failed to appear on our tree until mid July, young trees can succumb. Anthracnose appears in warm, damp springs following colder conditions.
An advantage to planting a Plane Tree is that it rarely sheds branches, and can withstand high winds that affect other trees, but it does produce a hefty crown with a wide spread. Often there are irate letters in newspapers about the cruel pollarding of street Plane Trees and Lime Trees, but pollarding has to be done as the growth can obstruct the view of traffic and can cut the light from adjacent houses and offices, but even after a severe haircut the London Plane will always make a vigorous recovery.
One disadvantage of the tree is the fine tufts of hairs on the seeds that can cause asthma attacks and eye irritations. The roots can lift paving stones and cause trips to those not watching where they are going and in very dry weather can shed quite large sheets of bark. A natural shedding of bark, on a smaller scale, occurs annually, and if not cleared can cause people to slip if trodden on.
But hey, the London Plane is a magnificent tree and in all likelihood if those huge old trees continue to grow in another 100-200 years will be the largest trees growing in the British Isles, outstripping our massive oaks.
Given the right conditions and space the London Plane will grow to a massive size and could reach 150-160ft tall —I still work by the old system, sorry! The straight bole will support a huge domed crown and will be of some height before dividing into branches. The smaller branches can become somewhat twisted.
The bark is a pale fawn colour and as I mentioned above it is shed once or twice a year to get rid of pollution, soot etc. The plates peel off and expose new bark of beautiful pastel shades of pink, green or yellow/fawn.
You will have no doubt noticed that the leaves are maple like and shiny so that they shed grime easily and the leaf lobe margins are “toothed.” They appear a little later than other trees and turn a buff colour in autumn and being rather tough tend not to rot quickly.
The flowers and fruits are carried in clusters of about 3-6 in number and the male and female catkins are carried on separate clusters. The male flowers are round yellowish ball and the female flowers are reddish **** They appear during late April to early May. The fruits remain as **** that are ringed with irritating hairs.
The wood is known as Lace Wood, is hard and has a pink/brown shade and a fine, intricate grain that is prized by cabinetmakers.
The Mill Pond
Before continuing the walk along the bridle track, take a short detour to the left, passing the bus stop and contemplate the tranquil waters of the pond. When the tide is in –the water level is partly fed from water arising from springs at the base of Arreton Down and is partly tidal–the water reflects the cloudscape. Sometimes it can be grey and sullen and sometimes bright and flirty, the water ruffled by cheeky breezes and glinting in the sunlight. When the tide is out the mud flats are exposed, with a narrow water channel meandering through the sluice gates, and flowing down the creek to the sea.
Further up the pond the banks are girt with trees reflected darkly in the water and then the channel flows through reed beds, home to adders, before reaching Black Bridge, Havenstreet. The trees provide a roost for herons, cormorants, shags and egrets and on occasions, kingfishers. The whole pond provides shelter and a feeding site for many sea birds as well as ducks, geese and reed-warblers.
This pond once supplied the water to drive the Mill wheel and I have often wondered if the early mill was wooden, many of them were in the C11th/C12th. As it is known that the road was merely a track that passed through a ford, and there has been no indication that sluice gates were in evidence, then how was the water impounded and did this early mill perhaps stand on the western bank of the pond? The historians will probably be able to answer this question.
Birds of the pond
Some of the birds that can be seen on the pond are flocks of gull comprising of black headed gulls, herring gulls, black backed gulls and during the summer terns can be seen diving for small fish in the deepest section near the sluice gates.
Mallard ducks were once much in evidence, the females nesting in the reeds and raising delightful broods of ducklings. Sometimes jealous males would drive them away from the ducklings and I have had many ducklings that had been squashed into the mud and deserted by their hard- pressed mum, brought to me and I have been able to successfully raise them. On some occasions the females would be “gang raped” and one such pathetic female was brought to me who I called Daisy- May. She made a good recovery after a few weeks of care and lived to raise, I hope, many another brood. The care of the ducks was aided by many, who lived by the creek, on an annual basis. Sadly, the number of mallards using the pond seems to have dropped off over the last few years.
Another handsome duck that can be seen on the lake is the Shelduck. Both male and female have distinctive red bills the female being distinguished by the lack of a bill knob. The heads are dark green appearing almost black, the chest white, shading into a russet, rusty breast band black belly, white sides then russet, white and black along the tale. The wings are white nearest the body and then black.
I have not known them to nest along the banks of the pond as shelduck usually nest in holes but it is possible that they do.
A single clutch, of between 6-14 eggs, is laid and the ducklings are lead to the water as soon as they are born and can dive if threatened. They are generally independent within about 2 months and broods often join together in crèches, guarded by another adult. Whilst I have seen a brood on the pond I have not seen a crèche.
Shelducks usually migrate during late summer, for the annual moult, returning to over winter here.
The stately grey Heron can often be seen on the pond, either standing knee deep in water searching for an unwary fish or eel, or standing on the mud flats. They are also partial to small mammals, frogs, reptiles and even small birds.
They tend to roost on the trees on the western bank of the pond. They do nest in the trees in the woods on the western bank in heronries but the nesting sites vary every few years and some times only an isolated nest can be seen.
Herons appear essentially grey but on closer examination one can see the large orange beak and red legs, white head with a black eye stripe and a black crest.
The breast is white with black markings down the throat. The breast feathers end in a fringe of longer white feathers and the under belly is mainly black.
The nests are untidy affairs consisting of small branches and twigs with a shallow depression into which the female lays a clutch of between 3-5 pale greenish eggs. The nests are used year after year and grow in size and can be several feet in size.
I once found a heron caught in brambles just past the plane tree. Fortunately I had leather gloves with me, as obviously frightened, it kept stabbing with that long dagger-like beak. After managing, like the duchess in Alice in Wonderland, to tuck the wretched bird under my arm, I was able to free it and return it to the pond. Surprisingly herons are very light in weight but their plumage is soft and oily. It didn’t appear to be injured and stalked off in a very haughty manner and not long afterwards it speared and subdued an eel, which it proceeded to swallow.
When the pond is full Little Grebes or Dabchicks can be seen bobbing and diving in the deep section near the sluice gates. These are the smallest and most widespread of the grebes and can be found on almost any expanse of water where there is lush vegetation.
They have a dark beak, tipped with pale grey and with a white patch where the beak meets the neck. They have a red neck with fawn plumage on the back and breast and a white under belly and tail.
When searching for food it busily bobs about making shallow dives although when it chooses to make a deeper dive it will appear to jump out of the water before plunging under.
The mated pair generally keep together in isolation and raise a brood of about 6 young that take to the water almost as soon as they are born, often carried on the parent’s backs. It is not known if they breed along the banks of the pond.
Little Egrets have now become a common sight on almost any stretch of water. Not that may years ago it was a red- letter day to catch sight of one but they now nest here.
Heron-like in stance they shine white with a dark bill, a crest on top of the head, and dark legs ending in green/yellow feet.
They make a nest of sticks or reeds in trees, bushes or reed beds and will of join herons in the heronries. So it is likely that they are nesting in the same areas as our herons and that their nests have therefore gone unnoticed.
Swallows swoop and excitedly twitter as they scoop mud from the pond mud flats to make their nests. Swallows usually return to the nesting site they used on previous years. I’ve seen them at the beginning of April and they can appear in March but the old saying goes ‘ one swallow doesn’t make a summer’. For me summer is heralded by the shrill, excited screams of those aerial masters of the, the Swifts. Circling high on thermals on a warm day searching for insects they live and sleep on the wing, apart from the short time they nest and raise their broods.
The swallows, probably need no description, and are elegant little birds. They rarely alight on the ground other than to collect the mud **** with which to construct their nests. They feed on the wing swooping and then flying at low level to catch insects and dive to scoop water to drink from puddles and streams.
One knows that autumn is on the way when they congregate restlessly in high numbers along the telegraph wires. One day they are there the next, poof, they have gone! So, sit a while and enjoy the tranquillity of the pond and watch the busy comings and goings of the birds that use it, after all, “what is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?’
Retrace your steps and continue along the bridleway. About 50 yards up on the left stands, hidden amongst ash and sycamore trees lining a ditch, a Wild Pear- Prunus communis var, pyraster. This is a rarity and has a preservation order extant. Sadly it is now looking decidedly sick and shows signs this year of failing to come into leaf or flower, although in past years it has flowered spectacularly and fruited.
There is controversy over wild pear trees, are they a doubtful native- although they are listed in the native species – or were they introduced? From Prunus communis clones have been bred that have produced the orchard pears we know today and as the name implies, they often grow in groups, probably from suckers. In the wild it is a rather gaunt looking tree about 15-20ft tall with, usually a domed crown and shoots with spines and small, heart shaped leaves.
The bark is black and splits into oblongs or squares.
The flowers appear in April/May, although they can appear earlier depending on the weather. About 10 years ago it flowered in late March and with a colleague, who is a tree expert, inspected it during a snowstorm! Needless to say it failed to fruit that year.
Clusters of white flowers, each flower bearing five petals, appear before the leaves with each flower having bright red stamens. The flowers have a strong, unpleasant scent and in a confined space the scent has been likened to that of mackerel.
The leaves appear next and are small, about 1-11/2 inches long and heart shaped at the base of the stem.
The fruit is small, pear shaped and hard. They are of a good flavour and if allowed to ‘blet’ (over ripen) can be used in conserves and jams. The skin is brown, speckled with white dots.
Generally single trees do not produce fruit as there is a mechanism to prevent self -pollination. However, this tree has bucked the trend.
When available the wood is prized by sculptors and wood turners. It has a fine grain and is reddish-brown in colour. It was once used for making mathematical instruments and apparently, some was used in the panelling at Windsor Castle. It also stains easily and was often passed off as ebony.
Continuing the walk over the little hump-backed bridge on the right hand side, set slightly off the track, is a wicket gate. This leads along a shady path through the Ornamental Driveway that once lead to Fernhill House. This area is covered by a Woodland Preservation Order. This is a very pleasant walk and cool on a hot day. For those interested in trees and shrubs it is a path worth exploring as there are many species, some of which are rare. It’s also a refuge for many birds and often red squirrels can be seen. But for the purpose of this conducted tour of the village out- posts it will be covered on the return trip.
Immediately adjacent to the wicket gate is the drive- way into the Woodland Cemetery and cycle track that will take the cyclist to Station Road to link up with the cycle track along the old railway route.
By the entrance there is another example of a London Plane, probably planted at about the same time as the previous example. Look carefully and you will note that the main trunk has disappeared, either coppiced or rotted out some years ago. Note how the bark has grown over the wound leaving a hollow and shoots have sprung from the base to grow into sizeable branches. It would appear to be in good health but does not have a preservation order.
I propose to say little or nothing about any of the buildings met on the way as it is a subject for the historians. Place and field-names, where known, will be covered. (Place-names can be checked using Kokeritz book “Place Names of the Isle of Wight”or “Oxford dictionary-British Place Names by A.D.Mills and the dictionary English Field Names” by John Field)
The name “Froggats” appears late-on so cannot be clearly translated. But, purely based on supposition, it might have been derived from Old English ‘frogga’ meaning ‘frog’ and ‘geat’ meaning gate, thus the gate where frogs are found. Many ways that led to common grazing or woodlands were controlled by gates, some of which might be movable, to prevent over grazing or use so this is probably where the ‘geat’ bit came from.
During the C16th, and probably before, the building was called “Peryns’ in which case this name could have related to either a family name or, more likely, the pear or pear trees that grew here- hence the one remaining previously mentioned. This is derived from Old English ‘pirige’ or ‘pyrige’ meaning pear tree.
Pass through the gate by the bungalow and on the right hand side is a fine example of an English Oak/ Pendunculate Oak—Quercus robur—
There are 400 species of oak worldwide two of which are native to this country. On my rambles through the woods and field hedgerows I have found four species, although I am aware that there are others growing in various larger gardens.