Tree auditions, 2015

I’ve decided to follow a new tree for a new year and, in accordance with my pledge to myself to get out of the garden more, I have been into the woods and fields and conducting auditions. I think I have decided, but I’m not entirely sure (I seldom am).

There wasn’t any snow – in fact, the sun was shining, though it was freezing – and I had to complete my tax return, so the only thing to do was leave the house and take a walk. Eighty-five layers of clothing later, and I was up the hill, looking down over the sea. A handy position, because you can – generally – see the weather coming.

looking west

(See that grey line over the sea? Weather. Brr.)

Plus, of course, there are plenty of trees. My first possibility was next to the lane; handy, I thought, for access in dodgy weather – and then I slipped on what appeared to be water but which was actually ice. So I went over the stile and took a closer look from a position of greater safety, as they say.


It’s an oak. It really is AN oak – it’s got a split trunk – and was easily identified from the fallen leaves around it, and from the fact that most of the trees in this area are either beeches or ashes or oaks, and it ain’t the first two. Good lichens, good interest (click on an image for a slideshow):

but there’s a disadvantage: something’s been chewing it at the base. Rabbits, maybe; sheep, possibly. Its position close to the lane (and the telephone and electricity wires) means that if there is anything fatally wrong with it, it would be a prime candidate for felling. I don’t think I could take the sort of trauma that Michelle at Veg Plotting had to endure when her followed tree was chopped down.

So, further on. These particular woods are close to the village, and form a perfect playground during the summer…

tree with swings

and I must admit that I’ve enjoyed a covert swing here several times myself, after checking to make sure I was unobserved by anything other than a sheep or two. Quite exhilarating, and definitely puts you in touch with your inner 8-year-old (if my inner 8-year old needed any encouragement, that is). But a tree that’s used for such exuberant playing is unlikely to have much surviving underneath; time to look elsewhere.

Nearby is another large beech. It’s surrounded by bluebells in the spring which would be lovely to write about, so I went and took a closer look at that too.


Definitely a possibility. It’s a lived-in tree (quite literally; something has left an untidy nest), but I’m still not sure.

It’s possibly a little too lived-in. Maybe this area is just too close to the village; the track was covered in footprints, there’d evidently been a lot of sheep around (one of which was no more – just plenty of fleece scattered about, happily no sign or scent of the rest) and in the summer it’s a great place for quad bikes until you get caught charging about the landscape. Well, not me personally, but you know what I mean. I decide to walk a little further in – avoiding sheep remains – and see if I changed my mind.

The old field walls, which have tumbled down in places, are great locations for tree seedlings to take root and grow, with more of a chance of life than they would have if they germinated on open ground. By the time they are big enough to be sheeped, they’re also big enough for some of them to survive the experience.

walls and trees

(I have a shot of sheep standing on this wall in the snowy winter of 2010-11.)

Access, though – hmm. Once the bracken and the brambles grow up, it’s going to be difficult to get close to some of these. So, with reluctance, I think I’ve decided: not in these woods, or at least not for this year. I heard the unmistakeable sound of ravens calling – cranking, really, crronking, prrunking? – on my landward side, and turned round.

I saw another candidate, as well as a few ravens:

tree and hill

Now that is a possibility. It’s a shame that the photograph gives no idea of scale, really, because the bald hill behind is much more impressive than it appears (it’s called Moelfre which means, essentially, the bald place). I think it needs a closer look, but by this time I was feeling LFSEP -late-filing self-employed panic – setting in. Time to go back. And think about where else to go…


16 Comments Add yours

  1. Pauline says:

    Your last one has such a beautifully shaped crown, so perfect, I hope you choose that one!

    1. kate says:

      It does look perfect, but I now realise there’s a practical problem with it: I’m too short. Mind you, I’d need to be about eight feet tall and/or carry a step ladder to get close enough to the lower branches. But it could be a supplementary distance shot every month…

  2. Oh my! They’re ALL so beautiful. I especially like the “playground” tree. I look forward to seeing the tree you eventually choose!

    1. kate says:

      I love the playground tree – possibly because it takes me back to my won childhood, where we had a swing in a tree made out of an old tractor tyre suspended from a substantial branch. The ropes, I think, are better: first, because huge amounts of rain cannot collect in the bottom; second, because there are two and you don’t have to fight your brother for possession…

  3. croftgarden says:

    Such beautiful trees, how could you resist an oak, especially when you get lichens too. Provided it’s not too sheep nibbled or trampled you should also get fungi too.

    1. kate says:

      I could indeed – but I think the sheep will get there first. But that lovely oak’s got some of the problems that the final tree has too, as I now realise on making trip 2. Its leaves are rather too high, possibly due to sheep activity again. I think I might need something either sheep-free (and there is a wood which is possible), or spiny… hm, there’s a thought…

      1. croftgarden says:

        Prickly ones are more difficult to hug, so perhaps they deserve some attention

        1. kate says:

          One of them may well get it… Watch this space!

  4. Love the shape of that last one. Tricky, isn’t it. Avoiding poo – and ice – and the potential trauma of Tree Loss. There are some lovely trees up Cwm Nantcol… Is that what it’s called? The little river that comes off the Artro. Used to be one of my favourite places to escape to. Just sayin’…

    1. kate says:

      Oh yes, Cwm Nantcol – lots of choice there, magnificent scenery, too. The beech woods nearer the village are Woodland Trust and also generally sheep-free (er, apart from escapees), and there are some lovely scrubby oaks in another part, too. Eek – too much choice…

  5. Cathy says:

    And each you tree you showed I thought ‘Oh, that’s a good one’ and then you moved on! Perhaps you will go back to your downy birch after all – AND it’s on your doorstep!

    1. kate says:

      That is an advantage of course, proximity – but I fancy a change. Think I’ve got there… almost…

  6. VP says:

    I love the idea of having a tree audition. I can imagine them lining up for inspection outside your house, perhaps with a bit of root shuffling and branch pushing just to make sure they present the best possible profile for your attention. I love the shot of your last tree – it reminds me of a poster at a friend’s house once which was a collage of one tree shot at various times over the year. I had hoped to do that with my tree, but the Tree Trauma of Doom you so kindly referred to in your post put paid to that ambition. Besides I think it needs a shot of an unfettered tree just like the one you showed. An urban tree like mine simply won’t do.

    1. kate says:

      We’re talking ents here – I hope they’d be peaceful!

      I think you’re being too hard on poor urban trees – they need support! And being in the country is no protection against people with chainsaws and wood stoves: there was another tree I had in mind, but it had been taken down when I went to look. Always a risk, I suppose…

  7. some interesting trees Kate, I enjoyed the walk and will be interested to see your final choice, Frances

    1. kate says:

      I’m nearly there. Almost decided… too much choice!

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