27th October 2019
ATF Autumn 2019 field visit to Wallington, Northumberland
It’s becoming the norm now for all our field visits to be fully booked well before the event, but whilst organising our most northerly event in Northumberland, an area not currently covered by an ATF regional group, we didn’t know what to expect! As it was we received an incredibly warm welcome from a professionally diverse mix of individuals (and collected a long waiting list!)
Our host for the day at National Trust’s 8,000 hectare Wallington Estate was Paul Hewitt, the knowledgeable Countryside Manager, who led us into the Ruskinian central hall, with its coved ceiling, balustrade, and wall paintings of Northumbrian history by William Bell Scott, Lady Trevelyan and John Ruskin. In this setting, Paul introduced the estate with its rich history and we knew there would be plenty to discuss with the current 15 tenant farms, 320 hectares of woodland, a village and 40 hectares of rolling parkland. Nick Johnson, the Veteran Trees Project Officer from Northumberland College, spoke to us briefly about his HLF-funded project to identify and record notable trees in Northumberland, which linked up nicely to other ongoing tree recording initiatives with Newcastle City Council, and the national Ancient Tree Inventory hosted by the Woodland Trust. However, we did sense some confusion on the part of attendees between the various inventory projects and the remit of the Ancient Tree Forum. Maybe unsurprising in an area of the country where the ATF hasn’t historically been active – we endeavour to change this!
Moving out into the grounds we first walked up through fields to see some veteran beech that the countryside team had left as standing wood. In an area with only moderate public footpath use, the team had designated this
zone of the park as being relatively low risk, and therefore appropriate for retaining these trees. This provides crucial habitat as well as contributing to the visual architecture and landscape heritage. We discussed the perils of removing shelter belts and interpreting historic plans, dealing with infill planting, deciding on spacing between trees, and recognising planted avenues. We then moved on into pasture, where we touched on the definitions of veteran and ancient trees whilst looking at gnarled and hollowed hedgerow ash and crab apple, and on the impact of livestock on soil health, compaction around tree roots and browsing damage. Heading back through the walled garden after some lunch, we learned from Robin Dower of the wonderful stories* attached to some of the specimen and notable trees, as well as the historic ‘Wallington Book of Trees’ and the designed landscape. Robin is Sir Charles Trevelyan’s grandson (Sir Charles donated Wallington Estate to NT in 1942).
Our warm thanks to everyone who came along on Thursday, and to Paul Hewitt in particular, and commiserations to those who remained on the waiting list. Paul continues to record trees on the Wallington Estate, and would welcome any assistance from volunteers (firstname.lastname@example.org). We look forward to seeing more Ancient Tree Forum events in the north east next year, so those wishing to be involved, please drop us a line!
*This included a tale about the Atholl Larch: this tree was planted in 1738 having been given to Sir Walter Calverley Blackett by The Duke of Atholl, the first person to commercially plant larch in Scotland (or even introduce larch to Scotland..?) A consignment of young larch seedlings was being transported from Norway via the port of Newcastle for the Duke of Atholl. They were then to be transported by road to his residence at Dunkeld, Perth and Kinross. Wherever the wagon stopped, a few trees were left for the owners, hence Wallington acquired six. Of the six trees, two survived into the 1960’s and were referred to as the “King and Queen” by Patricia Jennings, the daughter of Sir Charles Philips Trevelyan. Unfortunately, the Queen was demolished by a large Beech tree which blew over in a storm in the 1960’s, leaving the King as the last survivor of six originally planted. Patricia wanted to keep the legacy going so she asked a NT forester to shoot a cone from the tree, and this cone was sent to the Forestry Commission. 15 years later a small tree returned, and this was planted in the East Wood.