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15 June 2009 Sally Pemberton

Tree Wardens gathered at Holly Lodge - Richmond Park 2009Holly Lodge

On 29th June Adam Curtis took us on a very interesting tour of Holly Lodge and the surrounding area of Richmond Park.

The following is a list of some of the things he pointed out, cobbled together from some slightly illegible notes. He pointed out a lot of things related to trees, like their traditional medicinal and other functions, and how their names reflect this.

The newly laid hedging around the Holly Lodge compound for instance, consisted of alder and purging buckthorn, an emetic.

Salicilic acid, or aspirin, comes from salix, or willow. Weeping willow is Salix Babylonica (weeping by the rivers of Babylon.)

Crack willow is Salix Fragilis, which reproduces by breaking off and replanting itself. Hornbeam timber was used for mill cogs, being very hard and so less likely to catch fire with the friction and flour in the air.

Flowers also - St Johns Wort, a healing plant which St Johns Ambulance was named after. And stitchwort – I think he said it was somehow used in stitching wounds.

Going round the compound, Adam pointed out things that were not related to trees but were still fascinating. The dry pippershill bat droppings for instance, I would never have known what they were.

There was an abattoir for the necessary culling of the deer to keep numbers sustainable (330 fallow, 300 red). There was a timber mill – some of the timber from the trees in the park had been used to make the beams of a barn type building there, using traditional methods.

A bracken roller was used in preference to cutting or burning, because sugar seeps out of the crushed stems which reduces the strength of the rhizomes.

Here is Adam Owen’s daughter peeking out of one of them

700 year old oak pollardsProbably the most spectacular trees we saw were the 700 year old oak pollards.

Here is Adam Owen’s daughter peeking out of one of them (see picture on the right)

Barnches are cut to avoid the danger of falling on people. Note the jagged edge of the branch in this one. It has been cut to look as if it has broken off in a storm!

We saw some 200 year old ant heaps. It felt almost sacrilegious to walk among them, a bit like walking over graves. They were yellow meadow ants there apparently.

The palings used in the park were of English sweet chestnut, not pine from Estonia.

There was some hedging around the field where a magnificent shire horse was grazing. It had been planted by ‘young offenders’ doing community service, through an arrangement with the police and probation team. They apparently enjoyed being outside and active, and were able to see the long term results of their work. More purposeful than the usual community service tasks; I wondered whether Tree Wardens could do something similar through the police/probation service with tree planting schemes.

While we were were on this guided tour, others were running, cycling, rollerblading or just walking with their children on dedicated paths, laid out to encourage more open air activity without disturbing wildlife.

Adam had a real interest, knowledge and enthusiasm for all aspects of the Park which was really refreshing and frankly surprising for someone who is actually young! Anyway, his tour was very informative for us all.

Visit to Richmond Park - 2009