Ancient Trees

Great Lime at Holker

One of the largest and finest common limes in Britain, this awe-inspiring tree (Tilia x europaea) has an enormous fluted trunk. Common lime is a hybrid between small-leaved and large-leaved limes, which appears to have arisen naturally. The tree's girth is 25.9 feet (7.9 metres) and it is an amazing tree to behold. The lime grows in the 25-acre gardens of Holker Hall and was probably planted as part of the establishment of the formal gardens in the early 17th century.

The Original Bramley

This tree, the original Bramley apple tree, was grown from a pip planted by a young Mary Ann Brailsford between 1809 and 1815. The pip is thought to have come from an apple tree in her garden and grew into a fine seedling which was planted out and bore its first fruit in 1837. Twenty years later, a local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather, recognised the apple as an excellent variety and asked Mr Bramley, the then owner of the tree, for permission to take cuttings. Mr Bramley agreed but insisted that it should bear his name - hence ‘Bramley's Seedling' when it really should have been called ‘Brailsford's Seedling'!

The original tree is still producing heavy crops of Bramley apples. There are now 500 Bramley apple growers in the country and the total UK market is worth around £50 million. Amazingly, it all began with a single pip.

Cedar of Lebanon at Childrey

The cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani), the obligatory specimen tree of the Georgian manor house, was probably first brought to Britain as seed by Dr Edward Pococke, a scholar of Arabic at Oxford University, who made several journeys to Syria in 1638/39. This tree is believed to be the oldest cedar of Lebanon in the country. Pococke was presented with the Rectory at Childrey by Christ Church College, Oxford in 1642 and "according to unbroken tradition" he planted this tree on his rectory lawn in 1646. If this is that tree this makes it one of the few to survive the harsh winter of 1740, which destroyed most of the other cedar trees growing in Britain.

Although it has suffered from storms and snow damage in recent years, the tree is still healthy and continues to produce seedlings regularly.

The Big Belly Oak

In 1830, Strutt referred to Savernake Forest as "one of the most interesting spots in the kingdom to the lovers of wild wood scenery." The earliest mention of the forest dates from 934 AD, when King Athelstan referred to "the crofts alongside the woodland called Safernoc." With the 1066 Norman invasion Savernake became the Royal property of William the Conqueror.

The Forestry Commission now has a long-term lease on the woodland and within the old "Forest of Savernake" there are many ancient trees which are receiving special care.

Bewdley Sweet Chestnut

This astounding tree has a current girth of 33 feet 8 inches (10.2 metres) and spreads over no less than a quarter of an acre in the grounds of Kateshill House, Bewdley, Worcestershire. What makes the tree really exceptional is the spread of its branches, which have been allowed to grow unchecked. The longest branch, which stretches down the slope on which the tree grows, has an elbow which touches the ground 44 feet (13.4 metres) from the tree and reaches to its furthest extent 77 feet (23.5 metres) from the tree.

The grounds were once part of Tickenhall Manor, the home of Prince Arthur, son of Henry VII. One version of the tree's history is that it was planted to commemorate Prince Arthur's wedding to Catherine of Aragon in 1501. Another theory is that the tree was planted in 1567 by Sir Henry Sidney, to celebrate the birth of a daughter.

To find out more about these magnificent trees and many more - see our book The Heritage Trees of Britain & Northern Ireland