Woodland and unusual trees of North Devon
Here in North Devon the National Trust cares for a variety of woodland habitats including ancient and landscaped woodlands and tree-lined avenues. These tranquil spaces are the perfect place to get closer to nature, and are home to some unusual and special trees, from chestnuts that were already full-grown trees during the Wars of the Roses, to the strangely-named No Parking Whitebeam.
The West Exmoor ranger team look after 1200 acres of woodland, an area roughly the size of 16000 tennis courts containing a staggering 400,000(ish) trees. Most of the woodland on West Exmoor and around Watersmeet is known as semi-natural ancient woodland. This means that, although trees have always been here, in the past humans played an important role in shaping the landscape. Timber from these woods was used for firewood and also traded with Welsh communities for lime which was used in agriculture on Exmoor. These woods are protected by special designations for their rare species of moss, lichen and ground flora, and form an important habitat for many species of wildlife.
Find out more about the Heddon Valley here.
The No Parking Whitebeam – Sorbus Admonitor
This amusingly-named tree was first noticed in the Watersmeet valley in the 1930s, where one stood in a lay-by with a ‘no parking’ sign nailed to its trunk. There are over 100 of these trees in the Watersmeet area, but the tree in the lay-by was the first to be noted anywhere in Britain. After biochemical analysis it was declared a new species and officially named ‘the No Parking Whitebeam’ – Sorbus Admonitor – in 2009. It is a deciduous hybrid, related to the rowan and very similar to the Devon Whitebeam.
Watersmeet and Countisbury circular walk.
Meander down the Peppercombe valley and you’ll find the oldest apple tree on the property resting atop a glorious vista of Bideford Bay. Down the track to the tranquil beach and there you’ll find a patchwork of texture and colour on the lichen-encrusted willow and oak bows. If you venture further west you’ll find stunted oaks, gnarly ash trees, and amazing views of Bideford Bay along the coast path to the pretty hamlet of Bucks Mills.
Beckland woods, Brownsham
Managed for wildlife as well as your enjoyment, you’ll find an array of tree species in Beckland Woods, from cherry to beech, to ash and oak, all supporting a wealth of wildlife. Throughout the year we run family nature trails, and there are some great walks and running trails through the woodland. Don’t miss Lower Brownsham Farm Tearoom (National Trust tenant-run) where you can end the walk with tea and homemade cake.
This tranquil, ancient parkland once befitted the grand house that stood in its midst. The park is home to a variety of trees, including 700 year-old sweet chestnuts and old fruit trees, such as Landkey Yellow, Listener, Johnny Voun and Devon Quarrendon. The trees in Dunsland park support many rare lichens and provide a rich habitat for wildlife.
Sweet chestnut trees
Gnarled and twisted into sinister shapes by hundreds of years of sun, rain and snow, three ancient sweet chestnuts stand in a row near the coach house in Dunsland’s parkland. These trees are estimated at over 700 years old. Since they were planted there have been over thirty British monarchs on the throne, and Dunsland’s great house was built, stood for centuries, and lost again – but the trees still stand, ancient guardians in this timeless, peaceful place.