• We've got a truffle hound

    Our new young Scottie is really finding her place here at the farm and today she amazed us all. Jan caught her scrabbling away excitedly in a shady corner of the garden & when she went to see what she was up to discovered that she had unearthed a summer truffle and was about to devour it. As it was quite an old one (apparently they are at their best during the sumer months - hence the name I suppose) we thought it best to relieve her of her prize. Lived here nearly 30 years and never seen one... but then we weren't looking and I'm sure our noses aren't as keen as Jessie's.

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  • Tree chopping with Mr. Gladstone

    Latest acquisition for the tree image archive rather oddly finds an early postcard entitled "Mr. Gladstone tree felling at Hawarden". The Liberal P.M. was rather more noted for his penchant for chopping down trees on his Flintshire estate rather than planting them (although I have little doubt that he did plant some). Here we see him with axe shouldered and his family arrayed around the fallen giant. It would appear that the local vicar was also visiting on this day, and the looming form of the big house is visible in the distance.

    The image is taken from a photograph of 1888 by Samuel E. Poulton. Postcards are seldom associated with the Victorian era, but I suspect that this one may have been printed before Gladstone's death in 1898 as a very interesting contemporary text on the reverse seems to indicate.

    The photogravure postcard was published and sold by Mr. Jones at the local post office in Hawarden, and may well have been stocked into the early years of the 20th century, but I believe the text suggests an earlier date for this example. Text as follows:

    'The men sitting on the tree are W.H. Gladstone [Gladstone's son, who seems to have an axe on his legs, so must have been helping his father] & the Rev. W. Drew. The children in the pony carriage are W.H. Gladstone's - Mrs. Gladstone [Catherine] in the large cloak.

    I asked the lodge woman if Mr. Gladstone really cut down the trees in Hawarden Park, & she said, "Oh yes indeed - but not lately, not since he has been so old; but before, oh yes - very often." [this statement surely indicates that Gladstone was still alive at this point, thus pointing to a date prior to 1898] - But there are so many trees left that one wonders why he didn't cut down more - You can see the favorite pony-carriage [with a donkey in charge on this day] too - it reminds me of the Queen.

    What a splendid little vignette of social history with a gratuitous tree felling thrown in for the benefit of the photographer perhaps. Maybe I misjudge - and the tree was ailing - we'll never know, but this fascinating postcard with its unique inscription is a real gem.

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  • One damson tree

    Following on from my last post, this shows you exactly what one tree can do. All the trunks in this picture apart from that on the far right (an early prolific plum) are one tree - five satellite trees around the one old stager with a prop. This suckering is a wonderful way for a tree to promote its future, and since the tree must originally have been a sucker transplanted from another tree or a seedling then all the 'children' trees come true to type. Further down the orchard we have a damson, bought & planted some twenty years ago to replace a fallen veteran. Clearly this was a grafted tree as its suckers have created a small spinney of wild plum trees (the nursery root stock) with rather tasteless small green plums, but fabulous for making jam.

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  • Damson trees - the unknown ancients

    Damson trees are something of a regional speciality in these parts, around the knot of Heref. Worcs. Shrops. borders. Most often one finds them in old hedgerows, but there are a handful of damson/plum orchards still in existence - all very old as these trees have not been planted commercially for many a day. We have damsons in our hedges here at the farm and several trees in the garden and orchard. With the Prunus tendency to suckering - most often observed with dense blackthorn clones - we find that several of our old trees have spawned four or five satellite trees, sometimes 25 or 30 feet away from the parent, which gives a remarkable indication of the root spread. On some of the Commons around here there are whole mini woodlands of damson - sometimes with a couple of hundred stems. It woulld be fascinating to DNA fingerprint these to ascertain whether or not they have all sprung from one original tree. My hunch is that they have, in which case it poses the question - exactly how old are these trees? We may be in the realm of hundreds of years.

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  • The best place to see wild daffodils

    We've just had the Daffodil Weekend at Kempley and Dymock, but due to the very mild winter & early spring the blooms were already going over in some places. Right on the Herefordshire/Gloucestershire border lies Hall Wood (I featured it here a couple of years back) & for me this is one of my favourite sites for wild daffodils. Here is a landscape of woodlands unencumbered with conifers and adjoining pastures that have never been ploughed or improved. The added bonus is that I usually have the place to myself. The coverage of flowers seems to be remarkably variable from year to year. In 2016 one part of the wood was almost solid yellow with so many flowers crammed together, but this year the flowering was very sparse. Conversely a pasture alongside the wood was well covered with many small groups of flowers, although never quite enough to give that true golden carpet effect. These delicate little wild flowers are so much sweeter to me than their big blousy garden cousins, partly because I love to think of them just quietly growing and spreading for hundreds of years.

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