Title: “Inner Sanctuary”
Do you love Trees?
Do you love 500 year old trees, with Royal connections?
Have you ever seen a tree which spreads over no less than a quarter of an acre?
Do you love beautiful specimens, with all those curved lines, gnarled branches, shades and fissures that spiral upwards?
I battled Storm Arwen to get this photo. Arwen was creating devastation across Britain.
Having travelled 158 miles in bad weather, I arrived at my destination. To my shock! I realised that I had left my warm coat and walking boots at home! No going back now! Wind speeds were reaching almost 100 mph. Branches of windblown, bent, groaning trees, were breaking off, smashing to the ground. Some hit my car. Under a gloomy, dark, sky, the freezing rain drove down. Endless icy droplets hit me and suddenly, without warning, blew off the trees in a torrent, like someone had shaken their very wet umbrella on me. There was no light “pitter-patter” melody of rain today and certainly no sense of calm.
Raw sleet started. I shuddered as the arctic air rushed through my body, my eyes watered, my nose felt like it was being nipped. My hands were red and numb. I can taste the icy sleet in my mouth. My hair is tousled. Wind is blusting about me and I hear the biting, gusty, winds howling their chorus through the trees.
I manage to borrow a coat. The coat is too big for me and is flapping, being battered by the fierce storm and the wind is howling up inside of it. But I am grateful to the owner for their kindness and for some of the warmth that it affords me.
No-one was giving up any boots today though!
To get to this awesome tree, I had to slip and slide my way up, and negotiate around, the muddy bank on which this tree was growing, in my Skechers! The soil is saturated. My socks and feet are now wet. I am trying to keep myself upright and at the same time focusing hard not to land in the mud, being created from surface water run-off. Equally, I was trying not to get hit by big, heavy tree branches. That was difficult, as I did not know which trees the branches were going to break off next. This photo was going to be hard to get.
My word! Stopping to take in the sight before my eyes. I stood, rooted to the spot, in awe of this Sweet Chestnut Tree (Castanea sativa) “17014”. It is really exceptional. What makes it so amazing? Well, the branches have been allowed to grow, unchecked for hundreds of years. It is also under threat from Ink Disease and Chestnut blight. I am so pleased to be standing here looking at this magnificent tree, glad that it hasn’t been made into furniture and that it is still healthy all these hundreds of years after it was planted for someone famous.
I love trees and have to admit that I have hugged them! Why not? Trees are so important to us and our lives. Essential to us, is the Oxygen, which they produce, along with sequestering carbon dioxide.
This tree’s girth is 33 feet 8 inches (10.2 metres) so it will take a team of us to hug it!
The longest branch stretches down the hillside on which the tree is growing. It has an ‘elbow’ touching the ground. This elbow is 44 feet (13.4 metres) away from the tree. The longest tree branch is 77 feet (23.5 metres). At first I had thought the elbow was another tree and on closer inspection I was wowed to see that it was in fact part of this Sweet Chestnut Tree itself.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll designated this tree as one of only fifty Great British Trees. It is recognized in the national heritage, by The Tree Council.
The tree stands in the grounds of what was once the home of Prince Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of Henry VII. One historical account is that the tree was planted to celebrate the wedding of Catherine of Aragon who later married Henry VIII. The final theory is that the Sweet Chestnut was planted to celebrate the birth of the Daughter of the Lord High Admiral of England.
The Romans introduced the Sweet Chestnut Tree to the United Kingdom.
Sweet Chestnuts are unique nut-bearing trees. Scattered on the ground all around me were soft, spined, green casings, housing brown, shiny fruits. Chefs Worldwide recognize their unique characteristics. They are a traditional part of Christmas Dinner. Chestnuts contain Vitamin C. Nicknamed the “Bread Tree”, Chestnuts contain twice as much starch as a potato and are lower in fat than other nuts. For hundreds of years Sweet Chestnuts have been baked on the streets and sold to passers-by in Winter. Here with me now are hungry squirrels, digging in amongst the carpets of golden, fallen leaves, searching for nutritious, sweet, nuts.
For hundreds of years, this beautiful tree specimen has been hidden from public view.
My muscles worked hard now. I grew strong against this storm because of the magnificence of this King of a tree. The wind was powerful, scattering debris, chaotically, like a non-stop beat of a marching band. My emotions stirred. Passion spurred me on and drove me to stay, on this untamed day. Storm Arwen was bold, but I tested its boldness because of my passion for photography which allows me to savour these special moments of joyful anticipation. Absorbed in the moment, I was undeterred, and just had to get my once in a life-time photo of this Sweet Chestnut Tree.
I bring to you the admiration that this tree deserves. This Castanea made my day. It’s hundreds of years old, it’s massive. It’s trunk twists and turns and has developed fabulous spiralling fissures. Branches slide down the hill, then shoot upwards towards the sky again.
Trees reduce stress, improve mood and restore us. Sitting, looking at trees reduces blood pressure and reduces the stress related hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Trees make us feel kinder to others. In spite of the raging storm around me, standing here, at one, with this alluring Sweet Chestnut Tree, I certainly felt inner sanctuary.
I hope you love this photo of “Inner Sanctuary” as much as I do.
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