Trees for the Future: A walk around Eynsham’s trees
Sarah Couch led our Green Week Walk. She is a specialist in Historic Designed Landscapes and she has worked in many of the country’s great parks and gardens restoring and replanting avenues which were mostly Elm, Lime or Horse chestnut. All but lime are suffering from disease. Dutch Elm disease in 1970s had major impact, with catastrophic consequences for the English landscape.
There were a lot of Elms in Eynsham, as seen in several place names– young elms are now growing back in the Fishponds but will probably die after about 20 years. Horse Chestnut are now also threatened by leaf moth and bleeding canker - and ash dieback is taking its toll. These diseases have been brought in from overseas partly because we have not invested in our own nursery trade and instead import young trees which bring in new diseases. Climate change may make conditions better for pests and diseases. But there are new disease-resistant elms that we can plant and other trees- such as sycamore, lime and southern European trees, which seem to do well. Variety needs to be part of future planting. We should also care for our older veteran trees so that they live as long as possible.
Eynsham has some fine specimens of False Acacia ( also called Locust trees) planted in the early 1800s. William Cobbett ( pamphleteer, politician and author of Rural Rides) was a fan and probably gave the seeds or young trees to his friend who lived at The Gables. The Acacia grows fast, very tall - and sheds its branches – so it is good for firewood. Acacias in the gardens of Acre End St can be seen from Station Road. The huge Acacia and a magnificent Cedar, growing in the garden of The Gables, can be seen from Newland Street.
We have many local residents to thank for the range of trees in Eynsham. The Queen Mother’s Clump in the Fishponds was planted by the Eynsham Society to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Queen `Mother in 1982. – followed by the Millennium Wood. But there are some key people who have planted rather more surreptitiously in our hedgerows and copses. The Fishponds includes many fine mature trees in addition to the familiar oak and beech. There are two varieties of Plane trees, Norway and Field Maples, Horse Chestnut (along the northern path ) Sweet Chestnut, Sycamore, White and Black poplars, and a Grey poplar by the bridge.
There are large willow trees on the south side of the playing field which may be some of the oldest trees in the village. Pollarding willow is traditional practice as they grow back so well, and the canes can be used creatively (Eynsham has an active Willow Coppice Group).
The age of a tree can be estimated from its girth - measuring the diameter of the trunk at chest height. An oak grows at about an inch a year so the large oaks in the playing field are about 120 years old (still young for an oak!). There are Holm Oaks in the Fishpond area, but also fine specimens in Newland Street ( Beech Court) and in the Gables. The fine tree at the Elms is a Tulip tree (not native).
The walk finished with the Peace Oak Orchard with its collection of Eynsham varieties of apple and the majestic Peace Oak planted in November 1919 to celebrate the first anniversary of the armistice.