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First or last of its kind? On Loughrigg, Lake District Cumbria

If one thought about it, you would very quickly be able to identify a favourite tree. There will be myriad reasons why your favourite is a favourite. I also acknowledge that like your children you shouldn't have favourites but will, in reality, spread your love to cover a number of trees. When I was young it was that tree mentioned earlier that I climbed to listen to the 1966 FA Cup Final. Later it was another tree that let you climb high (too high if any adult had spotted you!) into in Canterbury. For Katayoun the favourites of her childhood are a mulberry you could hide under and a cherry to climb - both allowing a little girl to plunder their fruits. As a student there was a tree in Pelaw Woods, with a bench beneath, that had branches that circled in a way that formed a window through to the magnificence of the Norman cathedral at the heart of the City of Durham. I'm drawn to isolated trees that seem to defy the odds and exist where no others survive. Sometimes these are in mountainous settings but at other times alone because they are out of place - a magnificent Douglas Fir in the grounds of my first school as a teacher in Bedford.

Black Poplar - Populus Nigra

The early morning look - Vinon sur Verdon, France

When we were creating our garden, with its ancient farmyard pond and an inkling that the developer had grubbed out black poplars, Katayoun researched and planted male and female black poplars - once common farm trees, often near ponds and water courses . One day (probably beyond our lifetimes) they may become a favourite of a new generation - or two or three as they live for 200 years. They are one of the few native British trees and now rare in Norfolk - maybe less than 100 and heavily male orientated. A little scruffy looking they have a charm all of their own - a bit of an early-morning look I like to think.

The Hay Wain - J Constable 1821

The Black Poplar is most famously depicted in John Constable’s painting ‘The Hay Wain'’. As lowland rivers were cleared, silt and mud banks removed, the Black Poplar was unable to self-propagate as it likes un-vegitateted muddy banks. Then, after the first black Italian Poplar Populus ‘serotina’ was introduced, few Native Black Poplar were planted for over 100 years. It is difficult to distinguish different poplars so the gradual loss of native black poplar was not recorded. By 1970 only 1000 standard trees were counted in a special survey. Since the 1990s The Wildlife Trusts have made it their mission to plant native Black Poplar on suitable nature reserves. There are an estimated 7,000 native black poplars in Britain, chiefly occurring south of a line from the Mersey to the Wash. The tree has strongholds in Shropshire, Cheshire, the Vale of Aylesbury and Suffolk. The vast majority of the trees have reached maturity and there has been very little planting of new trees until recently. Female trees are particularly rare, with an estimated 400 nationally. There has been much mis-identification of hybrids as natives and vice versa. Formerly it was more common in Norfolk but now approximately 70 mature trees survive. Of these, just one is female.

Quite by chance I stumbled up an interesting arboreal link from an unexpected website - the European Tree of the Year - whist reading a post from the CWGC about a witness to war. Not in the form of a poem, eyewitness account, historical record, diary, photograph or painting but by a tree! It was Belgium's tree of the year for 2020 and is in the final for the Europe-wide award for 2021. Also in the final is a 'lone survivor' from the UK. Follow the link to learn the stories of these 14 amazing trees and vote for your favourite.

During the First World War the city of Ypres was totally destroyed, but the root stump of this tree remained alive. From the base of the trunk 4 new side trunks grew up spontaneously. They also survived the Second World War, when Ypres was cold and almost all trees were cut down for firewood. The Four-trunked Chestnut became a unique survivor from pre-war Ypres. This living monument, with a trunk base of no less than 9.10 meters in circumference, now symbolizes the force of survival, located next to the world famous Menin Gate that commemorates 48,000 WW1 dead with no-known grave.


Nice and simple today and in time for Shrove Tuesday and with a tree link!

Maple Syrup Pancakes

Makes 6 pancakes

Don't tell your doctor of dentist!


1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour

1½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp maple syrup

Additional maple syrup


1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

2. In another bowl, combine the egg, milk, oil and syrup; stir into dry ingredients just until blended.

3. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a lightly greased hot pan (griddleif you have one - I'll use my crepe pan); turn when bubbles form on top of pancakes.

4. Cook until second side is golden brown (pancakes will be thin).

5. Serve with additional syrup.

Word of the Day is ...

"Wuzzle [WUH-zhl] (v.) - To move freely around a place or at a social function, associating with others - if only!!! - To socialize; to mingle.

Etymology of this word is unclear beyond the fact that it is found in "The Century Cyclopedia and Dictionary" by William Whitney. New York, 1889

ps: voting for European Tree of the Year closes on February 28th.

pps: I remember being gripped by the book The Lord of the Forest by BB (Denys Watkins-Pitchford). It tells the story of an oak over the centuries - still a favourite but sadly no-longer in print and expensive second-hand.


"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” ― Chinese proverb
"A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love". - Saint Basil

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3 comentarios

15 feb 2021

I thought it was on the way down from Loughrigg back to Ambleside. Instead of going down the road , cut across to the left through a small bit of wood and it opens out into this field and you come out on to Under Loughrigg. (I could be wrong)

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Martin Castle
15 feb 2021

I like to think of it as a giant stag beyond the rise and wall. Think this may be the same tree on The Terrace above Rydal Water.

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15 feb 2021

Frequently drawn to this tree in the Lake District. Even in death it is stunning.

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