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How old is that tree?

Although I am still new to identifying trees, though I am ably assisted by the ‘Picture This’ App, I am now taking the next step to approximate their age. A quick google gives a variety of approaches, some more technical than others, and those from the US forever having you choose between imperial feet and inches or the far more sensible metric systems. Having started with inches I quickly flip the tape measure around and go with centimeters instead to remove one complexity in the calculation.

The science is self-evident – some trees grow faster than others, and the growing conditions will have an impact too. I am not after an exact age, so looking for a recently sawn down tree of the same type and girth, or sawing down the tree to get at its age or taking a core sample would be taking it too far. And unless in my own garden, against the law.

All I want to be able to do is to take a measurement, do a calculation based on what kind of tree it is and therefore say that this tree is around 50 years old, or 100 years old or 150 years old. That’s about the range, with some closer to the 30 years mark, anything younger a sapling of sorts and anything far older edging towards ‘ancient’. Rather like guessing a person’s age I think you develop an eye for it, certainly around your own parks and walks. Around Lewes there is a lot around the 60 year old, very few old trees and many younger. I’m thinking the oldest trees are likely to be in the cemetery, where ancient yews are often found. And in Southover Grange Gardens which was in private hands 100 years ago and has an old mulberry and equally old beech which I think are at least 300 years old?

I try out my method around Stanley Turner measuring a sweet chestnut here, a field maple there, a sycamore too. The willow that came down a few years ago are surely reaching the 250 years old mark and having been sawn off I could get an exact diameter.

While the field maple that came down a year ago is possibly around 60 years old.

There is a chance that there is someone alive who remembers them being planted – or even planted them. For this I need to approach the Rugby and Cricket Club.

I also head up to Jubilee Gardens and visit Bell Lane.

My calculations remain vague. I put this large beech in Jubilee Gardens off Juggs Lane at 120 to 130 years old. With all of these are await correct.

I’m yet to calculate the age of the trees in Bell Lane Recreation Ground or the older trees in the Railways Land Wildlife Trust Land.

The Railway Land Wildlife Trust

There are days when I visit The Railways Land Wildlife Trust land in the morning and late afternoon without fail – and more often if they have an event on.

Longer walks are now being measured by how long we have been told our dog Evie should be out – 20 minutes, not an hour or more. So we do a short circuit taking a different route each time we return. 

A morning walk on the Railway Land with heavy due glistening in the low sun. Capturing the delicacy and brightness of due on the rushes needs something better than the lens in my phone, but who carries around a DSLR anymore? 

Lewes Present tells me I am looking at White Poplar here, something I confirm by putting some closer images through the App Picture This and then reading up some notes from The Woodland Trust. 

From the Woodland Trust British Trees App

The thing I should look for is this bright, white shininess in the canopy. Knowing that the underside of the leaf is paler than the upper side explains the effect they produce as you walk around the trees from a distance.

The visit ends at Bake Out for a coffee, or later in the day at the John Harvey Tavern for a pint of Harveys.

Lewes has it all. Though some benches along the river bank would be welcome. A project for the Town Council.

Buxted Park, 24th September 2021

East Sussex Dog Friendly Walks

It has taken a month before I have started to double back on my favourite walks; I could have easily gone another 8 weeks exploring the coast, South and North Downs without ever visiting the same place twice but there comes a point when you want the ease of going somewhere familiar. This time I understood where to park, where to set off, where to hang back and how long it would take on different sections of the walk.

Parking could not be easier; the grounds of Buxted Park are, contrary to your expectations, open to the public. I had done a U-turn the first time I had entered through the stone gates by the lodge and parked across the road in Buxted – this time I parked under the trees in the dedicated parking by the St.Mary’s Church. There must surely be days when this is impossible.

I was brought here originally by ‘East Sussex Dog Friendly Pub Walks’ which saw me completing circular routes with Evie earlier in the summer between Plumpton and Ditchling around Arlington Reservoir. Today I am armed with my growing knowledge of trees, an interest in the countryside and history and an eye for a good view.

Organ Music is playing in the Church; I don’t enquire. Entering a place of worship with a dog feels inappropriate and if I tether Evie outside she will bark. I give a passing nod to the War Memorial whose names I plan to research at some stage and head towards the ancient yew and a side gate out of the cemetery into the park. The yew tree is reportedly over 2,000 years old. Whether it is now one tree or several is a moot point as the trunk has opened out into a crown all coming from a common base. My mind is a whirl of inspirations and wonders I had as a boy – a BBC TV drama I recall (or perhaps a book) in which a lad left a sword he had used in the Middle Ages under an oak sapling only to retrieve it many hundreds of years later. My mind dwells on ideas of a rejuvenating immortal who takes sucker, if not life-force, from ancient trees like this – modern graphics having him (or her) by the tree at different stages of its growth.

There were many dog walkers out on our last trip; today there are a handful – families too. Last trip I took close interest in the trees downed in the 16th October 1987 storm. I’m sure Buxted featured with trees flattened like so many chopsticks and all aligned from the south-west. Whilst much of the wood was cleared enough has remained in place to regrow creating peculiar semi-mature hedge-like stands of successive trunks emanating from the fallen tree – I like nature’s capacity to rejuvenate like this.

Today I peg my walk to the oldest trees that I spot, a stand of oaks, a lone park-planted redwood and a couple of beech by the lake.

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