Monday, December 29, 2008

Postcard from Wellingtonia Avenue

No Christmas tree could be as impressive as these. Tucked away in an otherwise unremarkable corner of Berkshire, Wellingtonia Avenue is a great example of British eccentricity. The 100 giant redwood trees were planted in 1869 to commemorate the death of the Duke of Wellington. The road they line leads nowhere very interesting – but the journey's the thing. Driving down this avenue feels special.

One side of the road is on National Trust land, forming the border of a wood, which could be lovely; if only today's irresponsible Brits could refrain from fly-tipping. On the other site of the road, the trees are in private front gardens. I know I'd feel pretty lucky to have one. But then, I do own the National Trust ones don't I? Lucky me.

My picture doesn't do it justice. There's a better photo here:


Timberati said...

Hi K,

See how the tops of the trees in the older photographs are pointy? The recent photos show rounder tops and sparser foliage; they are taking on the characteristic and becoming old growth.

At this point the wood properties change too, with the wood becoming brittler.

postcardsfromk said...

They're about 140 years old now - is that nearing the end of their life, or can they go on much longer?

Timberati said...

There are Sequoiadendron giganteum in the Sierra Nevada (their home range) that are over 3000 (yes, three thousand) years old.

The ones in Britain and the continent are out of their normal habitat, so it's difficult to say. The climates there tend to be wetter and cooler (at least the summers) than what SG is used to.

The guys I'd ask would be Drs Norm Pillsbury or Doug Piirto of California Polytechnic State University. I know them both and they're very approachable.

postcardsfromk said...

3000?! OK, I've stopped worrying now. I guess your specimens have had to cope with climate change over that period so maybe ours will survive. A little googling has told me there's another avenue of Wellingtonias slightly nearer to me, in Staffordshire. So I'm planning to visit them sometime this year and will let you know how those are doing.

Timberati said...

We humans tend to have a short term view of things and forget things like California's breadbasket, the Central Valley, used to be an inland sea long before we lot were mucking about.

Ecologists will tell you that plant populations move up and down in elevation and north/south as the climate has warmed/cooled over millennia.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't monitor and take care. But it is to say that Occam normally prevails.

Happy new year.