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29th November 2018

ATF East Anglia’s Visit to Weald Country Park, Brentwood

ATF East Anglia’s Visit to Weald Country Park, Brentwood

21 July 2018

A warm sunny day greeted around 40 people at Weald Country Park, situated north-west of Brentwood, a world away from the nearby A12/M25. The walk was led by Jim Curry, a local arborist from Harlow who has worked on the park’s veteran trees and whose knowledge of the site and navigation skills proved invaluable. Before setting off Jim explained Weald was originally owned by Waltham Abbey and became a deer park in the 12th century. Part was then converted in the late 17th-early 18th century into a Capability Brown style landscape. The park was in private ownership until bought by Essex County Council in 1951 and opened as a country park a couple of years later.

The walk began with a mature sweet chestnut on the edge of the landscaped part of the park. Jill Butler gave an overview of the recent research by Rob Jarman on estimating the age of sweet chestnuts and, although this tree’s girth would suggest veteran status, its estimated age of 300 years would be contemporary with the aforementioned landscaping. Gary Battell highlighted the tree’s stem bleeds and the potential risk of Phytophthora on various tree species and its impact on veterans.

Off into the wood pasture of the Deer Park, next stop was the pair of an oak pollard and veteran silver birch with layering limbs. Discussions included possible sympathetic pruning of the birch to reduce shading of the oak crown.

Further into the Park, we looked at an oak which had suffered significant fire damage a few years ago. Jim explained how a fire had been started in a basal cavity and travelled up the hollow stem acting as a chimney. His team installed wire mesh inside the basal cavity and then filled the stem with wet chippings. The oak’s healthy crown and lack of fire damage symptoms around the base is testament to Jim’s work, retaining a fine tree that others may have condemned and felled.

The welcome shade of a wooded area known as The Forest revealed several fantastic hornbeam pollards; stems that had hollowed, arched and layered – walking trees. Jill Butler explained how the limited natural range of the species meant south-east England is a stronghold for hornbeam veterans, and these ones were world class. Ted Green said he’d be back to video them once the leaves had fallen, watch this space!

Many thanks to Jim Curry for leading, Reg Harris for the admin, and the ATF members for another fascinating and thought-provoking day.

Posted by: Julia Nicholas

5 Comments | Leave a Comment

  • Mark Chester says:
    Posted November 29, 2018 at 7:09 pm

    Do you have the updated video? Good review, I appreciate it as I was unable to attend.

    • Kate Crook says:
      Posted November 30, 2018 at 11:44 am

      Hi Mark we understand that the updated video isn’t available yet, we will let you know when it is. Many thanks Kate

  • Neil Mahler says:
    Posted January 12, 2019 at 1:48 pm

    Could somebody explain in more detail please this process of placing wire mesh inside the (burnt) hollow cavity of a vandalised Oak and filling with wet ‘chippings’ – wood chippings I presume and not granite ! Also, do they have to be Oak chippings or will any wood do ? I am having trouble visualising this procedure … were the chippings then shoved into the hollow from above or from ground level (depending upon where the wire mesh was jammed into – the base or half way up). Sorry if I sound dumb, but not being an arborist this technique is new to me.

    • Kate Crook says:
      Posted January 14, 2019 at 10:09 am

      Hi Neil, I will send you an email with the details of person who did the work and also led this walk. Many thanks Kate

  • Julie Price says:
    Posted August 21, 2019 at 10:35 pm

    I spent the better part of 30 years visiting this once beautiful woodland. After moving to the midlands in 2010 my visits went from once every couple of weeks to once every couple of years. Until 2015 when I returned and found my safe haven had been turned into a ‘Gruffalo’ theme park. The car park was prohibitively expensive, the shop full of commercial tat and everywhere I walked in the woodland, ugly Gruffalo statues lurked, reminding me of the commercialisation of nature. I left vowing never to return and, nearly five years on, I have kept my word. Truly sorry to see an adored, semi-natural space succumb to the commercialisation that is so prevalent everywhere else.


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