Experience the Pinetum
The Cragside estate is made up of a collection of natural rooms which comprise a Formal Garden, the Rock Garden – where the House resides – the woodland and the Pinetum. The Pinetum is a towering collection of non-native trees on the estate which were planted to recreate a North American forest landscape in this northern valley in Northumberland.
What is a Pinetum?
As the name suggests, the Pinetum is a collection of conifers, mainly but not exclusively, from North America. The land where the Pinetum sits started life as a damp and marshy part of the estate, which were the perfect growing conditions for an ornamental coniferous forest.
Cragside’s Pinetum sits at the bottom of Debdon Valley across the burn from the House. During the Victorian era, an arboretum or pinetum was regarded as a supreme symbol of wealth due to the amount of labour it took to plant and care for the trees. The pinetum at Cragside also displayed the Armstrongs’ keen interest in non-native horticulture, as they brought prime examples of species from the other side of the world to this corner of the north east.
The original trees, which stand today, were planted by Lord and Lady Armstrong around 140 years ago and include a mix of species including Douglas fir, Caucasian fir, noble fir and western hemlock. The Pinetum covers 1 hectare (2.4 acres) and is home to five of the top 10 champion trees – the tallest of their kind in the country.
Looking after the Pinetum
All the trees in the Pinetum were planted around the same time and have life expectancy of around 200 to 300 years, depending on environmental conditions.
To ensure that the Pinetum is around for centuries to come, the forestry team have planted some younger trees which will take over from their big brothers when they reach maturity.
Where you can find the Pinetum
A walk to the Pinetum gives you the perfect opportunity to take in some of Cragside’s special places. Starting at Tumbleton Lake near the Visitor Centre, walk towards the main entrance of Cragside where you will see the Archimedes Screw. Take the stone steps down to the Debdon Burn and follow the meandering path along the stream until you see the Iron Bridge ahead – this is also an ideal spot to get some photos of the House sat on the craggy Rock Garden. Walk under the Iron Bridge, following signs for the Pinetum, where soon you will be stood amongst trees reaching up to 50m high.
During the winter months the Pinetum takes on a cathedral-like atmosphere, as the sun disperses through the tall trees creating a dramatic golden hue, while in the summer, the trees expertly provide shade on a sunny day.
Look out for a friendly face amongst the trees. This leafy-faced sculpture was carved by artist Tommy Craggs. He's known affectionately as 'Douglas' by the team, and you can find him as you wander between the Iron Bridge and the Pinetum.