Tree move and planting at Sheffield Park

The Capability Brown style cart in use at Croome

After a year of celebrating the work of England's greatest gardener, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown, the Sheffield Park garden team will end the commemorations by transplanting a semi-mature tree using only technology available to Brown in the 1700s.

Brown at Sheffield Park

On purchasing Sheffield Park in 1769, John Baker Holroyd (later the First Earl of Sheffield) set about remodelling the house and garden in the latest fashionable style.  He brought in architect James Wyatt to design the house, and Capability Brown to work on the garden. 

Brown set to work on the landscape, incorporating the garden, woodland, park and surrounding farmland to create the perfect English countryside setting for the house.

Famous for his grand designs, Capability Brown was known to undertake work on a massive scale.  He would think nothing of digging out lakes, clearing vast areas and moving trees in order to open up vistas or give tempting glimpses of what lies around the next bend.

Moving a tree

To commemorate the tercentenary of the birth of Brown, we will be moving a tree to the site of the long lost ‘gothic seat’, a resting spot on the parkland that took in views of the lakes and to nearby Fletching village.  It will be surrounded by a hand-built wooden seat for future generations to enjoy.

The oak tree to be transplanted has been chosen for its size, but also its incorrect location on the parkland, close enough to another oak tree to prevent them both from flourishing as they grow.

The garden team will be using only eighteenth century technology for the move.  This means the tree and receiving hole will need to be hand-dug and the transportation will be done using a specially built wooden cart drawn by horses.  The cart was created for a similar project at Croome, using drawings from the 1700s.

Key to the success of the re-planting is the timing of the move and the preparation of the tree.  Work started at the beginning of the year with the soil around the tree being excavated to prepare the roots for transportation, a process called ‘bumping on’.  The move will take place sometime in November, once the leaves have fallen from the tree and it has settled into a dormant state.  Once planted, the tree will need occasional deep watering to help it establish, a process of feeding water slowly in the area under the canopy to allow the water to reach deep into the soil. The trees crown will be carefully pruned to reduce wind resistance and a ‘staking’ system devised to prevent ‘rock’ which would result in root damage and instability.

All that will be left to be done is to monitor the tree for the next 850 years or so.