As with other participants in the Tree Year 2011 project my choice of trees would perhaps be considered mundane by others as the choice was relevant to ourselves and how we wished to contribute to the project. Thus the size of the tree (s), species and aesthetic may be of little interest to others, which is of course beside the point. But one factor cannot be considered mundane with my chosen lime trees in Stoke Gabriel, Devon and that is the enviable location. I am privileged to be able to visit, when I want, Stoke Gabriel and enjoy the landscape of the village and surroundings. However it is not my landscape.
Take for example the village of Slad in Gloucestershire. Residents new and old and visitors have a permanent record of what that landscape meant for someone born and brought up in it by way of the classic book; ‘Cider with Rosie’, by Laurie Lee. In North Devon the photographs of James Ravilious allow a permanent record of the landscape through the eyes of those who lived and worked in it. Such records are not only invaluable sources of information they are actually part of the landscape itself.
Last year I returned to the landscape I grew up in with a French colleague; standing on a hill overlooking it I could not understand the emotion I felt. Now I do and it is simple to explain – I was part of that landscape as that landscape contained me for a time. The sounds of a child playing are as intrinsic to the landscape as the sounds of its biodiversity, if captured on camera or in writing the landscape is captured also. Why is it to some so difficult to accept that humans are as much to do with a landscape as the (sometimes migratory) animals that exist in it also?
Therefore upon receiving a forwarded email from George Collings, (by way of Philip Voice of the LJN), after he had read my rural tree valuation of the two lime trees at Stoke Gabriel online, it enabled me to not only gain factual insight into what was previously guessed analysis but to further understand the landscape in which the trees were in (although I hasten to add I am unable to ever fully comprehend this landscape as fully as those who belong to it do).
The first email from George contained the following:
‘I spent the first ten years of my life in Stoke Gabriel where my family had lived for many generations. We left in the early 1950s
reaming in South Devon regularly returning to visit relatives.
With reference to the following passage in the valuation –
‘’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.’’
– My clear recollection was that the hedge the trees stood in was still there when we left Stoke Gabriel and was probably removed by the 1960s. It ran from Duncannon Lane intersecting a still existing hedge with a style about 20 yards on the River side of the style. I seem to remember there was a gateway at the intersection. My 1971 Copy of OS Sheet SX 85/95 shows it although there is often a considerable lag between actual changes in the landscape and their appearance on maps.
Your mention of sink holes reminds me that about ten years ago I was walking the footpath from Duncannon Lane to Stoke Pool when I met Mr ***** who was then living at the Adjacent property ‘Woods’ and owned the land the footpath ran over. He told me that over the last few years the ground to the SW of the footpath (approx NR 842572) had sunk by some feet and the saucer shaped depression about 20m across can be seen.’
‘My recollection of the hedgerow is that it was much broken down and eroded with little stone showing and I suspect that the trees survival is due to the fact that more than a tractor with a front loading bucket would have been needed to shift the roots embedded in stone.’
‘I suspect that the steeply wooded slopes of the river Dart are remnants of ancient woodland. In parts so steep that I doubt a complete inventory of the species has ever been taken. As a child the North facing stretch between Stoke Pool (Stockenpool to us locals) and Duncannon always fascinated me with the butchers broom and what we called shaky grass growing in abundance. The tall conifers seem at home there on the thin soil and on the edges wild cherries.’
The following photographs were further included in the 3rd email and allow an insight into Stoke Gabriels’ recent history:
National branding has been a PR essential for many years now and has allowed for a ‘stamp’ of identity of a government agency or NGO to be placed into the UK landscape virtually everywhere. The modern photograph looking through a field gate across meadows to a distant woodland, will inevitably have in the foreground a waymarker with a recognisable logo on it. This is surely the very antithesis of what a landscape actually is. One hope is that the ideals of the European Landscape Convention, which fully embraces the bottom up approach to a peoples’ landscape, together with the similar ideals firmly entrenched in academia, (and which has continued, at odds to the trend of labelling the landscape from NGOs’ and Quangos’, by the practitioners living and working in their local landscape) will now be fully embraced and allow the full and unconditional surrender of a landscape back to the people to whom it belongs and to which are an integral part of it.
My many thanks to George Collings.