"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Following in the Footsteps of an "Edwardian Lady" - Part 8 : Elmdon Park

Two of my favourite books are the "Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" and "Nature Notes of an Edwardian Lady" written by Edith Holden in 1906 and 1905 in the form of nature diaries and published in facsimile form following their re-discovery in the 1970's. A few years ago I did a series of posts featuring places visited by Edith Holden and mentioned in her journals. Some locations are very hard to track down as, for example, she writes about a "violet wood" with only a few clues as to where this may be. Other locations have been covered by housing development or are now inaccessible. Elmdon Park is one area she mentions visiting on a number of occasions and, as this is now a public park, I decided to pay a visit recently.

Elmdon gets its name from the Old English "Elmdun" which means Elm Hill. The first house built on the estate during the reign of Henry VIII was Elmdon Manor. This was sold to an Abraham Spooner in 1760, a successful Birmingham ironmaster, who proceeded to demolish the Manor and build a new Hall in 1785 on the 2000 acre estate. In 1840 the house and estate were sold to the Alston family who owned the property until 1920 when a large section of the land was sold. When the house and remainder of the estate was sold in 1930 this heralded the end of the Elmdon Estate as many of the old trees were felled for timber and huge parts of the parkland became agricultural land. Solihull District Council bought the hall and estate in 1944 and established a public country style park. The empty hall became derelict and was finally demolished in 1956.

The parkland Edith rambled over would, therefore, have looked rather different to how it does today although the lovely old trees,open grassland and lakes give a glimpse of what the park would have looked like in the early 1900's.

On 10th October, 1906, Edith wrote that the Wild Service Trees in Elmdon Park were a glorious colour - sadly, I couldn't find any of these trees to show you. She also mentioned that, although a few other trees were starting to change colour, most were still green and that proved to be the case when I visited.

This Jubilee beacon wouldn't have been around in Edith's day - it was kindled during the Queen's Jubilee celebrations along with 4000 others throughout the UK and Commonwealth.

However, this beautiful Veteran Sweet Chestnut tree would certainly have been known to Edith - the tree has been dated to 1518 using increment dating. It has a girth of 6.90 metres.

An Ancient tree is a tree of biological, aesthetic or cultural interest due to its great age. Ancient trees are in the 3rd and final stage of their lives and are old relative to others of the same species. A Veteran tree is usually in its 2nd or mature stage of its life and will have important wildlife and habitat features, for example, hollowing associated with fungal decay, holes, wounds and large dead branches. A Notable tree is of local importance or personal significance and includes specimen trees or trees that have the potential to become Veteran trees.

Edith used to stroll across the fields to Elmdon Park from her home in Olton - these days those fields are covered with the huge factory complex that is Land Rover, Solihull - just viewable in the distance of this shot.

I also visited Elmdon Manor LNR - a reserve which has developed in the grounds of the old Elmdon Manor Gardens. It is held on a 25 year lease by Warwickshire Wildlife Trust from Solihull Council. The reserve contains a large walled garden of 5 ha (12.5 acres) reputedly the largest walled garden in England.

Orchard in the Walled Garden - apparently Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers have been recorded on the reserve.

The rest of the reserve comprises woodland, damp grassland, a few pools and a wildflower meadow - I've been meaning to visit this reserve for ages and think it would be a good place to return to in the Spring. I will also try and return to Elmdon Park as there is much to explore there and perhaps I'll find the grove of silver birches and wild service trees (or their descendents) that Edith writes about.

Reference: Woodland Trust Ancient Tree website


amanda peters said...

This was a lovely post so into my trees at the moment , with the help of ISpot I have been able to name most of the trees at the park.
I have those two books , will have the chance to read them propley over next few weeks, I love how you have visited some of the places from the book, the tree looks stunning, I would have to give it a hug.
Amanda xx

Margaret Adamson said...

thank you for taking us to this lovely park and stepping back in history

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Thanks so much Amanda. I hope your operation has gone well.

The books are a total delight - how I wish I could paint! I'm ok on common tree species id but really need to work on less common species id. I-spot is a great idea to give help.

Margaret Admamson - Thanks so much Margaret - am so glad you enjoyed :)

Countryside Tales said...

Wonderful! I love those books too so it was really nice to see your pictures and read your account. I love the old Chestnut, I get a tingle in my spine thinking about the history, times and people old trees like that have seen. Not many things in our world last as long these days.

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales Thanks very much :) The sense of history emanating from the tree was just amazing :) There were a few chestnuts lying on the floor which we collected in the hope we can get one to germinate and plant it in the garden :)

SeagullSuzie said...

Oh so nice to visit these places with you. It's been years since I was anywhere near Elmdon or Solihull. Great to see the park is looking so good.

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Thanks so much - glad you enjoy seeing the area again. Did you grow up near Solihull? Hope all goes well with the house move.

Toffeeapple said...

Another of my favourite types of post from you, thank you.

The Chestnut would have looked magnificent in its full glory. I hope your nut germinates for you.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much for your really lovely and kind comment :) Will let you know if the chestnut germinates.

Chris Rohrer said...

Interesting bits about the trees. I didn't know that they had classified the trees in these ways. Glad that they are preserving this land. And glad you put on your detective's glasses. Great stuff!

Ragged Robin said...

Chris Rohrer - Thanks so much Chris. The Ancient tree stuff is all so fascinating - although sadly, unlike listed buildings etc., they don't have the same protection :( A really ancient pear tree is likely to get the chop in Warwickshire to make way for the dreaded HS2 railway :(