Belated tree (and path) following – August 2015


I did it, I did it, I got up the hill and followed my hawthorn (er, that makes it sound like an ent, and me rather like either Pippin or Merry trailing after Treebeard). It is beautifully in leaf, even if it isn’t ripping apart any rogue wizard’s tower. I’m not quite clear about damage its roots may have done to the dolmen next to it, but that’s been there for probably well over 4,000 years and I don’t think it’s going anywhere soon, ancient tree or no ancient tree.


And I did manage to spend some time looking at the tree more closely, without interruption from sheep, mountain goats, tourists asking what I’m doing, the farmer asking what I’m doing, or any attention from cows, which is something of a result. For me, anyway; not sure how the hawthorn felt. But I am too late for Loose and Leafy‘s ‘tree following’ box for this meme, or am I? Hey ho!

The seaward side of the hawthorn is quite notably damaged by the bizarre weather we’ve had this year. Even the new growth looks mangled – we’ve had storms worthy of September, and there is absolutely nothing between the tree and the winds from the sea. Here’s a new shoot on the seaward side, followed by an equivalent on the landward side:

(just click on any of these paired images for the full view). The one is all crumpled and brown and dry and papery and shrivelled, and the other is not. The one on the protected side – note the dolmen in the background – has a little bit of browning at the tips of the leaves, but that’s all. The same applies to the haws:

There’s quite a difference. Of course it’s predictable, but I was still interested to see how marked it is.

But we are dealing with an ancient tree here, and one in a highly exposed position. The damage, it has just occurred to me, is the tree profile shaping itself in action, as it were – growth on the landward side, increased vulnerability and damage on the seaward side. The damage can be quite something on the tree as a whole, too – it’s in the path of the Irish Sea gales and we have had some whoppers recently, including the 120mph gusts of the winter before last. So it’s not surprising that things like this have happened:


But how about all this new growth? Most impressive.

And then there’s damage just casused by age and sheep attention and things that bore into wood already weakened by storms,

and which inevitably results in an extremely old dolmen-guarding tree which does sometimes appear to be more out of a fantasy novel than reality:


But I can’t ignore the landscape of which the tree is part, even without tourists, sheep, goats, cows, passing farmers who all think I’m mad anyway. And on the fantasy-novel theme, to quote Tolkien ‘the road goes ever on and on / down from the door where it began’:

roadwayThe single-track road that passes the hawthorn and the dolmen runs down to Llety Lloegr, the ‘England shelter’, where it goes over an old stone bridge, Pont Fadog. It was a spur of the main drove road to the markets in England; now it peters out into a footpath, part of which is running over the hill in the middle distance.

That’s a track which branches off; it used to lead directly south and down to the Mawddach estuary, passing the manganese workings which were part of the economy of the area in the past. It still does, but now it’s the start of the southern section of  the Taith Ardudwy, or Ardudwy Way, and is clearly signposted – if you click on the link and then follow the links to the central and southern sections, you’ll see just where I am – or that should be where I am when I get fed up and need a breather. Sometimes I’ve thrown all my bits of paper into the air, packed a lunch and walked up there before going back and working in the afternoon.

Now there’s a thought!


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Spade & Dagger says:

    I want to follow that buzzard – right now ! Will have to investigate an English invasion as soon as possible.

    1. kate says:

      Some invasions are more welcome than others, especially those that don’t involve mounted knights – you’re welcome any time!

  2. Pauline says:

    Your tree must have a history, if not I’m sure you could write one about witches and goblins etc! It is a super old tree, if only it could talk!

    1. kate says:

      I wish I could even work out vaguely how old it is. The oldest person I know thinks that he remembers his grandfather telling him it was very old, so that would take it back well into the nineteenth century, but I’m sure it’s much older.

      There’s a book out, relatively recently, just on hawthorns. I wonder if I could get it through my library?

  3. Cathy says:

    Isn’t there something about getting a rough idea by measuring its circumference? Most of the hawthorns in our 200+ year old hedge have gone to hawthorn heaven which suggests they don’t live as long as some trees – but in a non hedge position it could be different. And our hedge doesn’t have a dolmen watching it of course. Lovely spot and lovely views – shame you can’t get there as often as would like.

    1. kate says:

      There is, but I’m not sure it would apply to the hawthorn because it’s got so many trunks, all now fused together. Interesting about your hedge trees – there’s nothing for it, I’m going to have to get that book, Hawthorn – the Tree that has Nourished, Healed and Inspired through the Ages by Bill Vaughn. Maybe that would help…

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