Littledean Roman Temple Site

2500 years of history and still going

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New trees for a new year.

We are currently in the process of added more trees for our grove.  It was mostly made up of Rowan and Crab Apples until last year when we added some cherries, wild pear and plum trees. This year we are increasing the diversity even more by adding further Crab apple trees but this time of named varieties as well as named apples, pears and plums.  We hope to be underplanting the trees with soft fruit varieties to increase both the productivity and habitat of the area.  All of our produce is shared with nature, we do not net or use any chemicals.

Our native crab apple trees are about 9 years old and we are hoping that this year they will choose to flower and fruit for the first time.  It is wonderful to see the different habits of tree species.  The Rowans have been flowering and fruiting since the second year and now produce a giant crop every autumn.  We did try some Apple and Rowan jelly from the produce which was sharp and sweet at the same time and went well with meats and cheeses.  Definitely one to try if you can – but do leave some berries for the birds!

Posted 6 years, 7 months ago at 10:20 pm by Katie Wright.

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Spring Flowers at LittleDean Hall

We are always blessed with the spring flowers in and area LittleDean Hall in Gloucestershire.  Despite the rain and cold this year they are just as lovely, if not more so because of those same reasons.  Amongst others we have Daffodils, wild primroses, wild viola, planted primroses, aconites and windflowers and soon will be the bluebells and the lady’s smock.

Tete a Tete DaffodilsTete a Tete Dafodils.  They look great in a pot and cheer up dull corners

Daffodils and HearteaseThe Heartease are just starting to go over, but this is their second flush.

Native PrimroseOne of many Primroses, this one is a bit sleepy though!

Purple PrimrosesA Single Purple PrimroseThey may not be native but they are so pretty.

Posted 7 years, 5 months ago at 1:42 pm by Katie Wright.

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Spring is coming?

After having so much snow this little bit of more mild weather has been a relief.  Just the temperature rising that little bit has started the earth stirring.  The snowdrops are out in Newnham and there are daffodils and other spring flowers staring to poke their green heads through the chilly ground to bring cheer to all of us missing their joy.

We had our first strong wind, could hardly be called a gale, the other day which, other than upsetting the plastic moveable greenhouse, just seemed to call into action life even further.  Unfortunately during the snows a few of the smaller branches came off the great Cedar tree, leaving what feels to us a big gapping hole in the canopy, but really just adds to the tree’s gnarly charm.

We hope that our newly planted nut walk will, when it is ready, burst into life and put on a green gown to highlight this future major feature of the lower walled garden.  Until then we continue to chip away at the mountain of work, enjoyable though it is, until spring really hits in and the cutting, pruning and trimming ceases for another year.

Posted 7 years, 7 months ago at 1:28 pm by Katie Wright.

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Winter Wonderland

We’ve had about 4 inches of snow average so far this year making the gardens look so beautiful.  Where as the snow has hidden some of the features it has illuminated others.  Such as our recently planted Nut Walk which starts at the Yew Avenue and reaches to the bottom of the walled garden.  It is a walk of cob nuts (Corylus avellana x maxima) with gateways and furthest reaches of Purple Hazel (Corylus avellana Maxima Purpurea).  We have also put two Wild service trees (Srobus torminalis) at the bottom of the walk as gateways into the Orchard on one side and the Nut area and into the fruit on the other.  These little trees show up so well in the snow and look like a proper walk already.  We can’t wait for spring and see them all burst into life.

Recently planted Nut Walk in the first snows

Recently planted Nut Walk in the first snows

We had visitors just before the snow which took us by surprize somewhat.  Wild boar, two of them apparently, have dug up the only lawn part of the Temple site making a rather large mess.  I have to say that personally speaking the thrill of having boar visit outweighs the work we will have to do to get the Tai Chi area back into shape.  It was in broad daylight that they were seen wandering down the road and they have explored the whole of Dean Hall’s grounds, though not causing too much havoc elsewhere.

Boar Damage on the Tai Chi Area

Boar Damage on the Tai Chi Area

The Forest looks so beautiful after a snow fall.  When the white highlights the dark and it is so quiet.  Walking through the Forest, you can pick out all sorts of animal and human tracks easily and admire the ever changing landscape.  It can not be beaten.

Two Bucks in the Forest on Solstice day

Two Bucks in the Forest on Solstice day

Posted 7 years, 8 months ago at 3:44 pm by Katie Wright.

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“A culture is no better than it’s woods” – a thought on trees.

We love trees! The Roman Temple site has regenerated itself in a relatively short time and we have planted other species to increase biodiversity and also the enjoyment for us.

The red berries of the rowan intermingled with the autumn leaf colours, the still green grass and the moody November skies.

Trees are such an important part of our plans for the garden, this area, the country and our world.  They gather and hold carbon, they provide habitat for countless (and still counting) species of animal, lichens, mosses and other plants whether parasitic or symbiotic.  They give us material to build with on small or large scales, warmth to cook with and be comforted by and beauty whether in their being or in the hands of a craftsperson.   W.H. Auden wrote “A culture is no better than it’s woods”
A thought backed up by recent studies by David Beresford-Jones, of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge into the disappearance of the Nazca. There are a number of great articles around, one from The New Scientist is no exception.  Of course this is extreme and I am in no way linking it to the happenings about us…..

The Chinese have wood as their fifth element and in the customs of  Taoism “woodsmen of the T’ang and S’ung Dynasties …….. would bow to the trees which they felled, and offer a promise that the tree would be used well” (R. Macfarlane, The Wild Places.)  An idea that maybe we have lost in the west.  There is that episode of The Simpsons where a whole tree is taken into a factory and planed down and down until a single pencil (or is it a matchstick – I forget) comes out the other end.  Exaggerated but I am sure it has some grain of truth.
Trees, themselves, are wonderful organisms.  Their ability to react and change to their environment.  Their strength and flexibility.  It is no wonder that many ancient cultures look to trees to show the way for humans.  On the site we have examples of trees that have naturally grafted themselves together.  If you climb up into “Old Jack” the oldest of the sweet chestnuts you will see a tangle of branches now all interconnected through friction and healing – an incredible sight and a wonderful adventure playground.  We have examples of trees that have been weighed down with undergrowth and the throttling bramble and have just produced numerous new shoots, 90 degrees to the original, heading up for the sun.
Robert Macfarlane writes in his book The Wild Places, of visiting a wood where
“In a clearing, I found a storm-felled birch, prostrate but alive.  It had been blown over two or three years earlier, I guessed, from the exent of the growth since then: an ordered row of healthy branches which shot up from the main trunk.”
Trees are common, they line our motorways, are in our gardens and our parks.  So common, in fact, that we take them for granted. “…they are easily overlooked, especially perhaps by eyes turned to the movements of tiny birds[.....]. Their impact on our surroundings is overwhelming as that of landforms or weather [....] only when we look at old photographs or confront the effects of a freak storm do we realise with a jolt how much of a difference the growth, the loss and the variety of trees can make” (Collins Tree Guide, O.Johnson and D. More).  Living in the Forest of Dean, it is perhaps even easier to take trees for granted.  It is an area which lives up to it’s name and it’s woods stretch for many a mile, holding boar, deer and other such creatures from the “Wildwood” myths.  To us, however, each tree is special and we aim to conserve the ones we can and, if necessary, be a voice for doomed trees that are not within our protection.
Specimen trees are planted by humans, for humans.  The tree’s status allows it to grow to its maximum and , in so doing, shows off it’s utter beauty and  grace but there is something lonely, almost unnatural, about a “specimen” tree.  Just like a specimen tiger or great bear in a zoo. Robert Macfarlane writes of his late friend Roger Deakin.
“Trees to him were mutual organisms, best understood when considered in their relationships with one another”
We plant the specimen trees and so we feel an ownership of them, even though they will,given a chance, inevitably outlive us and perhaps many of our descendants to come.  However, ownership comes with responsibilities and some people, when moving in to an area, a new home, can not handle that.  At first opportunity they wish to strip, cut and fell these wonderful beasts and even Tree Preservation Orders don’t count for much when human aspects are taken into account.  A tree near us recently got cut down.  An old, beautifully large Sycamore was felled in a day.  It was hollow inside, according to the tree surgeons and “had to come down”, maybe, but it broke our hearts.  This tree stood in a field with no livestock  or children (that I have ever seen).  The drive to the property ran along side it.  I really can’t see why such a giant of a tree needed to be felled when it did not pose direct risk to life or limb, just a bit of inconvenience if it were to fall across the drive.  I am being emotional about this,  in plain terms of Health and Safety, of legal and legislation there was no choice, but it still saddens me deeply.

Posted 7 years, 10 months ago at 4:11 pm by Katie Wright.

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