“Trees of the District and the Threats to Them”, Keith Wade and Paul Cooling
Keith provided an enticing preview of the exhibition “The Remarkable Trees of Sevenoaks”, to be held in The Orangery at Knole House, which will run from September 16th to October 12th 2014. The aims are to highlight those trees that are significant because of their age, size, history, ecology, cultural or other association, beauty or other important feature, and to raise awareness of the need to protect this valuable heritage.
Keith’s ambitions for the project are very wide-ranging, with plans to involve local residents, including children, and particularly to focus on national and local ‘Champions’ – exceptional examples of their species because of their enormous size, great age, rarity or historical significance.
Many questions may not be resolved, for example regarding the tree in the hollow of which the orphan William Sevenoke may have been found; or the first set of seven oaks after which the town is allegedly named. Seouenaca was the name given in about 800 A.D. to a small chapel possibly near seven oaks in what is now Knole Park, but there are other contenders for this honour and there are 33 particularly fine “official” oaks in the district – including the eight on The Vine(above). Sevenoaks also has more than 250 heritage trees. Many fascinating tree-related facts can be explored in the Society’s newsletter of December 2013.
Photographs taken by Keith and the Sevenoaks Camera Club will feature trees in all seasons, quirky and misshapen trees, and trees from the many estates in and around the town. Another thread that can be followed is that of trees in art, for example Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s ‘The Bower Meadow’, the only example of an outdoor setting used by the painter when he selected Knole Park in 1850; Charles Essenhigh Corke’s “The Rhododendron and Azalea Garden”, 1908, at what is now West Heath school (below); and the trees of Underriver in Samuel Palmer’s ‘Golden Valley’.
Keith and Paul also highlighted the serious threats faced by our local trees: horse chestnut leaf miners which tunnel into leaves and cause them to look autumnal, the processionary moth caterpillar which will defoliate oaks, the Asian longhorn beetle, hopefully eradicated after its recent local outbreak, ash die-back, acute oak decline and climate change (a rise in temperature will particularly affect beeches).
Legislation is in place to afford protection to a percentage of those trees and woodlands that offer amenity value in Sevenoaks. The legislation is in the form of conservation areas throughout the District (of which there are currently 42) and tree preservation orders (TPOs) of which there are currently in excess of 900. The Council states that it does its best to manage this rich biological inheritance for the people of the District today and also for future generations. There are many environmental pressures on trees. These range from pollution, drought, flooding and disease to new development – such as new roads and buildings – which are the biggest threat to the District’s trees.