Top ten trees of interest at Beningbrough
The Beningbrough estate dates back to medieval times, stretches over acres of parkland and is home to rare, unusual and characterful trees. When Beningbrough gardener Tom Longridge found out about the Tree Register, which keeps the records of 'champion trees' - the tallest or largest of each species, he felt sure that there would be some at Beningbrough.
Tom's hunch turned out to be right. When the Tree Register team came to visit, they did indeed identify four county champions, and also confirmed that the Duke of Cambridge Oak is the fourth largest variegated oak in the country.
The following are Tom's top ten Beningbrough trees, and can be visited in order as a semi-circular walk.
The Victorian pear arch
Pyrus communis. Arguably the most iconic feature of Beningbrough's gardens, the pear arch is made up of 20 individual trees. The arch was planted in the 1890s, and is an original feature of the Victorian walled garden, along with the greenhouse. Some of the trees are now at the end of their lifespan and are being replanted; most however are the originals, still producing delicious fruit.
Fagus sylvatica ‘cristata.' County champion for girth. The common name of this tree comes from the unusual shape of its leaves, which resemble the comb on a cockerel’s head. This leaf shape was probably a naturally occurring abnormality originally, but the tree then went on to be purposely propagated. It was commercially available from the 1830s, and Beningbrough’s champion is around 80-100 years old.
The lightning oak
Quercus robur. This huge common oak is known at Beningbrough as "the lightning oak" as it has a significant lightning scar right down its trunk. It’s interesting how the tree has managed to almost compartmentalise off the scar, and carry on growing, despite the damage. Interestingly, the oak and the elm are the two types of tree most frequently struck by lightning.
Quercus cerrus. This tree is around 200 years old and its branches have an amazing span of around 30 metres, without touching the floor. "It’s hard to comprehend how much weight there must be on these limbs, yet they don’t crack and fall off,” says Tom Longridge. A quirky feature of the Turkey oak is that its acorns have a bristly cup.
Shirofugen Cherry Tree
Prunus shirofugen. County champion for girth, and the second largest tree of its kind in Britain.
The trunk is actually a normal wild cherry, with the Shirofugen grafted onto it - so there is a big difference between the main part of the trunk and the top of the tree. It produces beautiful pink blossoms in late spring and is around 50 years old.
The white mulberry
Morus alba. This variety of tree relates to the story of James I, who wanted to encourage silk production in Britain. He was advised to have black mulberries planted for silk worms, and did so. Unfortunately, it was the wrong tree – silk worms like the white one! This tree on the cherry lawn is a white mulberry, and it is quite rare. There are only three on record in the whole of Yorkshire.
Duke of Cambridge oak
Quercus robur ‘variegata’. Nationally significant - the fourth largest variegated English oak in the country. This tree was planted in 1898 by the then Duke of Cambridge, the 79-year old grandson of George III. The story goes that he was suffering from hay fever and did not wish to cross any grass to plant it, hence its position in the middle of the path.
Sorbus thibetica ‘John Mitchell’. County champion for height.
There are a pair of these in the corner of the Wilderness Play area, and it's hard to tell which is the champion - both are very tall. This photo was taken in May when the leaves are a pale, apple colour. By the time they have finished growing, they will be the size of saucers. In autumn the tree produces fat brown berries.
The giant redwoods
Sequoiadendron ‘giganteum.' There were 16 giant redwoods planted at Beningbrough in the 1890s for the Dawnay family; eight have survived. The redwood was discovered in America during the Victorian era and was very popular, its size having connotations of power and Empire. The British wanted to call it Wellingtonia after the Duke of Wellington, but the Americans favoured Washingtonia. In the end, it was called sequoia after a Native American tribe. One of the Beningbrough redwoods can be seen from the front of the house, and others from the drive, approaching from Newton-on-Ouse.
Lime tree avenue
Tilia europaea 'pallida.’ Another of Beningbrough's well known features is the lime tree avenue leading to the house. The limes in the avenue today however, are not the first ones to be planted on the site. There were originally four rows, two on each side. These were taken out in the late 1980s, as they weren’t coping well with the high water table. The new trees were planted in the early 1990s, just two rows so as not to obscure the view of the house, and the avenue is now looking nicely established again.