An analysis of the location of two Small-leaved Limes at Stoke Gabriel, Devon, UK.
The required research on a location previous to any valuation has been made considerably easier by online resources. And in the UK the available information on any location can be substantial in comparison with other sites worldwide simply due to the British fascination (particularly during Georgian and Victorian periods) with the history of science itself and the role the UK had in the birth of modern earth sciences. There is then a paradox that the linking between sciences has been thwarted somewhat by an educational system which often blinkers its students into a single vein of study, although of late much of the emphasis on Landscape studies in cultural, heritage and natural history terms has started to slowly reverse this problem.
The National Grid Reference of the site is: SX 844572 (The UK NGR system allows for the location to be found on Ordnance Survey maps, which still provide considerably more information than any online map – they also allow for easy cross referencing on geological maps or historic documentation)
GPS Co-ordinates: 50˚24’11.41”N 3˚37’38.77”W
Without much research it can be determined that the location of these two trees is enviable. Positioned just upstream from the home of Agatha Christie and close to Dartmoor, Torbay, (The English Riviera) and the coastal beauty of the South Hams these trees sit in a landscape that has little changed since developments from the Enclosure Acts of the late 18th Century, with the only major changes nearby resulting from tourism which is intrinsically related to the beauty of the landscape itself. Post the Romantic period, the general populations desire to holiday in area of natural beauty has never abated and the immediate surroundings of the trees location enjoy being one of the most desirable destinations in the UK.
House valuations in the area rocketed during the obscene unprofessional and questionable valuations immediately preceding (and responsible for) the recent worldwide economic downturn. And an average 3 bedroomed house in the nearby village of Stoke Gabriel was seeing price tags of almost £400,000.00, this average price has dropped significantly since but the poor regulation of the real estate industry allows for continuing disreputable valuations based loosely on comparative valuation. Land valuation is now frequently also subject to such unprofessionalism, largely due to the Equine market and the influx of new ‘landowners’ moving to prime rural locations, who have no previous relevant experience in land ownership.
Further investigation of the site, by way of a Land information Search and research of relevant documentation displays a myriad of designations and constraints due to the importance of this site in local, national and even international terms with regards the geology, geography, landscape and natural history.
A brilliant and easy to use online Land Information Search tool is available on the Forestry Commission website – here
The geology of the site is of international significance:
Including the nearby European Geo Park Status that includes several SSSI sites which are the same geology as that found beneath the trees in question. The geological map of Devon shows the underlying strata of Devonian Coralline Limestone.
The trees location is close to the boundary of the neighbouring underlying geology and has seen soil over lay profile with the predominant classic Devon red soils; this rich in iron soil, caused by the weathering of Devonian slates formed in a ‘desert’ environment. An excellent brief report of the geology of this area can be found – here.
The soil profile is surprisingly deep due to the millennia of weathering and depositing of nutrient rich particles and subsequent composting of vegetation and more recently farming methods. This does lead to a nitrate run off risk, which given the natural significance of the nearby ‘Dart Estuary’ a Ria means that all industrial and agricultural activities have to be sympathetic to the risk of large scale erosion and the potential threat of nitrate rich run off destroying marine businesses and habitats.
The above allows us to determine that the stone faced Devon hedge remnant dates back to the Enclosure acts and was built using the Coralline Limestone found in the immediate locality. The removal of the hedgerow was to re use the stone for construction of nearby houses, most likely the large house of Duncannon itself and the substantial walled garden. The two lime trees pre date this removal, by at least 20 years, as they were deemed significant enough to allow for their retention.
Dating the trees will allow for a good estimate of the hedgerow removal.
The geography of the area is a fine example of the rolling hill landscape Devon is famous for. The result of substantial geological activity over a period of least 300 million years combined with a consistently mild climate. This geography is important in regards of the Landscape character
The location is contained within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is also just outwith a Conservation Area, which therefore does not immediately protect the trees under a Tree Preservation Order.
Following recent ratification of the European Landscape Convention and subsequently in the UK the Landscape Character assessments, all AONB ’s were amongst the first to be assessed in order to protect the landscape. Further protection is awarded by a plethora of localised initiatives through local and regional government. Such designations are vital in valuation terms, both aiding the valuer by way of a published regulations and documentation but are often seen by both landowners, home owners and practitioners as a ‘wall’ in terms of short term management. This problem in reality only relates to the communication between those holding the responsibility of the designation and those who live and work in the designation. It is certainly true that misrepresentation of the applicable rules and terms of the designation have been subject to some abuse by way of the regulators which has resulted in a confusion about the actual requirements. The private sector consultant and practitioner often have to spend considerable and totally unnecessary time in defining the truth and discovering the way forward in amongst the published regulations with regards a designation. Time spent by both public and private sector is a definable cost which must be attributed to the value of the tree.
The site of the trees is immediately adjacent to a conservation area, but does not incoporate these trees into the Tree Preservation order for the village.
Before moving on to the first criteria of the valuation itself, it is also important to make note of the importance of trees and woodlands in the locality and area.
The immediate locality contains several small woodlands and independent trees of note:
In the churchyard of ‘The Church of St. Mary and St. Gabriel, Stoke Gabriel’ can be found a Yew of at least 800 years old. And together with surrounding Ancient Semi Natural Woodland remnants, predominantly ‘Atlantic Oak Woodland’ significant to Devon, Cornwall and Brittany as the Quercus petraea – Sessile Oaks, dipping their branches into the brackish waters of the Ria’s commonly found along the coastlines of these Western fringes of Europe.
Also worth noting is the fact that in Devon and Cornwall there exist several internationally significant woodlands, including Wistmans Wood on Dartmoor. As a result there is a consciousness about trees and woodland in Devon, which exceeds the general public perception elsewhere in the UK. This consciousness is under threat with recent demographic changes to the population but is again a relevant factor to consider in terms of the valuation of the two small leaved lime trees in Stoke Gabriel.