‘A man can’t farm with wood n’ water’, which is to say that crops won’t grow under the shade of trees, or with their roots in waterlogged ground. This old adage was still current when I started planting trees at Staunton fifty years ago. The farmers were mildly resentful, but I pointed out that no trees had been planted in the previous seventy years and, however much I planted, there would be a net loss of tree cover for a very long time to come.
And so it has turned out. In December’s gales, as in previous years, we have lost limbs and small trees, and three very big ones. One is a sycamore, the biggest on the estate, the other two beech. How old are they? When we cut them up we’ll try and count the rings, but it often proves difficult. The landscaping of our valley, in the ‘Capability Brown’ style, was carried out in the late 18th century, which would make them well over two hundred years old. A good age for these species, but not impossible.
Jacqueline is sad to see them lying there uprooted in a tangled heap of branches. I am more philosophical. We will put in replacements, as we do every year, and, as they say, ‘it’s an ill wind which blows nobody any good’. Next year’s firewood is assured, and maybe some planks of beech and sycamore for furniture makers and kitchen worktops.