Last week I met with the knowledgeable head gardener Adrian Jacobs who has been working at Newhall School near Chelmsford in Essex since 1987, to talk about the trees at the school.
On the New Hall Estate sits the magnificent Tudor Palace of Beaulieu which has a fascinating history. It was previously owned by Henry VIII, home to Mary Tudor and was sold to Oliver Cromwell for five shillings. New Hall School is one of the oldest independent Catholic Schools in the UK and moved to the New Hall Estate in 1799. Here is a link to find out more about the history of Newhall.
We had a walk around the grounds and the first location we visited was an area called the ‘Cedar Plot’ in which approximately 19 Cedars are located. Apparently Cedars take about 100 years to grow, another 100 to mature and can live from three to four hundred years. The school lost four cedars In the terrible storm of 1987, and the the remnants of one makes up part of the altar in the little chapel in the barn. The oldest Cedar at the school is a 270 year old Lebanese Cedar which is located at the front right of the school and is growing over and almost through a wall in to the Nun’s Garden. Located in the centre of the Nun’s Garden is a beautiful Cherry tree which I cannot wait to see covered in Cherry blossom.
Years ago, the Nuns who ran the school, had the foresight to plan the planting layout of the trees that were often donated by parents of pupils when they finished school. Adrian remembers attending grounds meetings between some of the nuns and gardeners in which they created a master tree planting plan with an arbourist. The idea behind this was to ensure that most of the new trees that were planted in the grounds could become ‘specimen’ trees by choosing and subsequently planting trees in their most ideal conditions and position so that they could grow to their optimum potential. He pointed out the new Cedar trees which had been planted in the Cedar plot and elsewhere on the grounds, and I found it fascinating to see the differences between the young straight tree which develops in to the elegant mature shape of a Lebanese Cedar.
There are a group of Scots Pines at the school, a Chestnut, a Wallachiano Pine (not sure of its correct spelling), and an Elm that survived the Dutch Elm disease epidemic, although it is a little damaged at the top. He took me to the ‘Beech Walk’ full of mature Beech trees which also contains an Evergreen Oak (Quercus Ilex) and a couple of Hornbeams. Located nearby is one of my favourite trees but unfortunately it is in an unhealthy condition. It is a thorny Robinia tree which is covered in epidural growths that look like the galls that grow on oak trees. I have a young Robinia in my garden and found it interesting to be told by the gardener that Robinia trees are eaten by giraffes in Africa. There is also an Ash at the school and they are anxiously waiting to see if it has Ash Dieback. Nearby are Silver Birches which are encouraged at the school. One of my favourite trees is a 250 year old Plane tree which is a London Plane known as the Newhall Plane.
The beautiful Avenue leading up to the school entrance is lined by approximately one hundred Lime trees with a few oak trees at the sides. Previously lining the Avenue were Poplar trees, and prior to this Oaks which were sold for timber in Tudor times. A couple more Lime trees sit in the grounds and have a tangle of epidural growth which I believe may be known as Witches Broom.
I was pleased to hear that many of the trees have Tree Protection Orders on them so despite any development at the school they should remain for many years to come. Having an insight into the history of these fascinating trees helps me to tell a more interesting story with my photographs of them.
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