This avenue of beech trees is extremely well known, in fact it must be one of the most famous in England and it is a popular spot for photographers. But this is an avenue with a past, and also a future, but one that is perhaps different than you might expect.
The trees stretch for two and a half miles either side of what was originally the approach road to Kingston Lacy, a beautiful and substantial local manorial estate which is now in the hands of the National Trust. At the time it was owned by the Bankes family and the trees were planted in 1835 by William John Bankes, a rather colourful character, as a gift to his mother…….well, they weren’t of course planted by him personally – in fact one of my wife’s ancestors was involved in that. The numbers were very specific because there were originally 365 on one side of the road, one for every day of the year, and 366 on the other, to represent a leap year.
Unfortunately time has taken its toll and the future does not look bright for this magnificent avenue, partly because the trees are nearing the end of their normal life span which is around 200 years, but also because of the English weather and, more importantly, the huge volume of traffic that now uses this road. Beech trees don’t cope well with exhaust fumes. Many trees have already had to be felled because they had become unsafe, and in fact as you drive down the road, the lines of trees in places are reminiscent of a gap-toothed smile which is sad to see. Careful pruning has been used over the years in order to preserve as many of the trees for as long as possible so for the time being at least this landmark continues, but for how long, especially with present day health and safety requirements?
However, although the future may not look bright for the beech trees, there is a future for the avenue itself as the National Trust has planted a second avenue outside of the first. This avenue is made up of hornbeams which deal with modern traffic much better and it will of course be a lot wider than the original avenue. Now I’m not an expert on trees and the new trees probably had to be planted where they are in order to give them room to breathe and grow without being swamped by the current beeches, but there is just a small cynical part of myself that wonders if it was deliberately planned that way so that the road could eventually be turned into a dual carriageway!
Whether beech or hornbeam, this ‘twin’ avenue is truly a spectacle, and one that is totally worth preserving. The old will undoubtedly see out my generation, and the new will prove a delight to future generations. I wonder if photographers of the future will still be capturing images of the then famous hornbeam avenue at Kingston Lacy? In fact I wonder what form photography will take when that day comes?
At least for now, we can continue to enjoy this quintessentially English avenue, to drive through it, walk beside it, and of course to photograph it……..which I will to do for as long as I am able!
Thanks for stopping by.
Until next time,
Your friend The Dorset Rambler
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