Starting point: from outside the Belle Vue Methodist Church, Belle Vue Road
'I help out with the Belle Vue Arts Festival every year, I enjoy the Community aspect of the group, and really like trees so thought I’d run a tree trail to highlight Bellevue’s wonderful trees and to remind people to plant more for our children as the present trees we enjoy, were planted by our grandparents and great grandparents. I was helped to identify the trees by Andy Gordon, a rambler and a member of the Woodland Trust, I know very little about trees so the following is extracts from books and proofed by Andy the expert! I also wanted to share memories of trees with those on the tree trail, we often have fond memories of trees of our childhood, maybe a tree house, fruit trees in our gardens, poems etc so I have included those memories in this trail.'
Rebecca Barker: Committee Member
Corner of Oakley Street and Belle Vue Road – Oakley Manor Gardens
Black Pine (Pinus nigra) (Austrian Pine, Corsican Pine). Native of central and southern European coastal regions. The Black Pine is a very tolerant tree which can resist heat, drought, salt and snow. It can live to over 500 years old. In Mythology, the tree symbolises humbleness, good fortune and prosperity, fertility and protection. Their needles stay green throughout the winter months, which has been interpreted as a sign of vitality. Traditionally, they were thought to ward off bad spirits and protect buildings and cattle from misfortune, disease and even lightning. Barns and stables were swept with pine twig brushes and sprigs were hung above doorways. In ancient Roman mythology pines were sacred to Attis. After his death he was changed into a pine tree. The trees are in Oakley Manor gardens which was built for Samuel Pountney Smith around 1860.
Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani)
Native to Lebanon.
Most Cedars in Shrewsbury are Cedrus deodara. The cedar wood is used as an insect repellent in Lebanon. Not particularly valuable to wildlife. It was planted in stately homes from 1740 onwards. Today the wood is used for its hard, durability which retains a sweet fragrance for many years. An oil similar to turpentine can be obtained from the wood.
Wellingtonia (Sequoiadendron gigantean)
Native of Sierra Mountains in California. The name was probably derived by Stephan Endlicher, an Austrian botanist in 1857, from the Cherokee name of George Gist (Sequoya) who developed the still-used Cherokee syllabary. The Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) can grow up to 115 m, 377 ft. and is the tallest tree on earth. The oldest known Redwood may be about 2,200 years old. The bark is resistant to fire due to its lack of resin and in the San Francisco fire of 18th April, 1906 P.H. Shaughnessy, Chief Engineer of the San Francisco Fire Department wrote,
‘In the recent great fire of San Francisco, that began April 18th, 1906, we succeeded in finally stopping it in nearly all directions where the unburned buildings were almost entirely of frame construction, and if the exterior finish of these buildings had not been of redwood lumber, I am satisfied that the area of the burned district would have been much greater’.
Corner of South Hermitage and Belle Vue Road
London Plane (Platanux hispanica)
Thought to be a hybrid between Oriental and American plane (platanus occidentalis)). Brought here from Spain in the 17 c. Can grow to 35 m and live for several hundred years. It is the most common tree in London as it copes well with drought, pollution and compacted soils. It provides shade in summer in London and the oldest trees are to be found in Berkeley Square which are thought to have been planted in 1789.
Belle Vue Tavern
This is a "tree memory", there is no tree here now! The Horsechestnut tree blew down 1996 and took out 5 cars and damaged the pub and the cottage next door. It took the Council workers all Christmas Day to clear the tree from the road. The pub usually had Father Christmas in the pub on Christmas Day and a passing child noticed the tree damage and wondered if Father Christmas’s sleigh had crashed into the house! The tree was found to be rotten and full of water which poured out across the road to North Hermitage. Tom Harper’s dad was there on the day to help clear up the mess.
Gill Norton grew up in Hawthorn Road in the 1960/70s and she remembers this tree. Her very good friend Angela lived in The Plough Inn (now the Belle Vue Tavern) on Belle Vue Road, with her parents Owen and Fay Judd who were the licensees. Gill often used to stay the night with Angela in her bedroom which was a little room behind the tree. She said they would have crisps and pop which Angela would bring up from the bar and Gill remembers lying on the bed looking through the branches down North Hermitage.
Horsechestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) NO PHOTO
Balkan Peninsular – non-native
Can grow to 40 m and live for 300 years. Interesting fact: the leaf stalks leave a scar on the twig when they fall, which resembles an inverted horseshoe with nail holes. This association with horses could explain why conkers used to be ground up and fed to horses to relieve them of coughs and could be the origin of the tree's name.
The most famous use of the Horse Chestnut is in the game of conkers. The first recorded game was on the Isle of Wight in 1848. Horse chestnut timber is a pale creamy white to light brown with a smooth, soft, fine texture. It's not very strong and is therefore not used commercially, but its soft texture makes it ideal for carving. Other uses of the conkers include horse medicines, as additives in shampoos and as a starch substitute. Chemicals extracted from conkers can be used to treat strains and bruises. The flowers provide a rich source of nectar and pollen to insects, particularly bees. Caterpillars of the triangle moth feed on its leaves, as well as the horse chestnut leaf miner moth, whose caterpillars provide food for blue tits. Deer and other mammals eat the conkers.
A mature Horsechesnut tree can be seen outside Pengwern flats on Longden Road opposite Belle Vue Gardens.
Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana)
Behind The Belle Vue Tavern
From opposite the pub, we can see a Monkey Puzzle Tree right behind the pub! Brought here from Europe and North America in Victorian times. There is a story that Archibald Menzies was in South America and was given some monkey puzzle seeds to eat for dessert and slipped some into his pocket to bring home. These trees can live for 1000 years. It was given the name by the Victorians who thought monkeys would be ‘puzzled’ if they tried to climb one. Native to Chile and Western Argentina. It has been around for 200 million years, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Its spine like needles prevented it from being eaten by long-extinct animals. They are dioecious meaning male and female flowers grow on separate trees. Male catkins are long clusters of narrow green stamens which turn yellow then brown at the end of the summer. Female catkins are spiny cones that appear after about 50 years of growth but unless there is a male tree close by, do not set fertile seed.
Corner of Belle Vue Gardens
Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus deodar)
Native to Lebanon. Most Cedars in Shrewsbury are Cedrus deodara. Cedar wood is used as an insect repellent in Lebanon. Not particularly valuable to wildlife. It was planted in stately homes from 1740 onwards. Today the wood is used for its hard, durability which retains a sweet fragrance for many years. An oil similar to turpentine can be obtained from the wood.
Havelock Road on the left by the garages
Common Walnut (Juglans regia)
Native from SE Asia to China but widely grown in UK gardens as far north as Inverness. Produces nuts in long hot summers but not often grown commercially. Like other members of the Juglans family, the pith of its twigs is laddered. An interesting fact that the best wood is at the base of the Walnut so the tree is often dug up for its timber rather than felled. The leaves are the food plant for caterpillars of a number of micro moths and the nuts are eaten by mammals. The walnut’s botanical name, Juglans, originates in Roman mythology. According to an ancient myth, Jupiter who was also known as Jove, lived on walnuts when he lived on earth so the Romans called walnuts Jovis glans, meaning ‘the glans of Jupiter’. The botanical name of the English walnut Juglans regia means the ‘royal nut of Jupiter’.
Lawson Cyprus (Chamaecyparis lawsoniana).
Native to California. Introduced in 1854. They can grow very tall, up to 45 metres. Foliage smells a little like Parsley. In its native California, the Karuk people use the branches as brooms and the wood for posts as supports for sweat lodges. Highly valued in Japan for building shrines and coffins as it is a strong and light wood. Also used for making arrow shafts and musical instruments, especially guitars. The dense foliage is good for nesting birds when native broad leaf trees are still in bud. Very widely planted in the UK for hedging as grows less quickly than leylandii.
Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo)
Highbury House garden. Native exclusively to southern Spain. Unusually for a fir, this species carries its needles all round the stem; they are much shorter than most other firs. Most commonly found in parks and large gardens.
Norway Spruce (Picea abies).
Graham’s neighbour’s garden. Until the introduction of the non-needle drop Nordman Fir, about 30 years ago, this tree was universally used as our Christmas tree. Introduced into Britain in the 1800’s. Made popular by Prince Albert. This tree was probably planted about 30 years ago after being used at Christmas. Its persistent cones are larger than other spruces found in the UK. The seeds are released in autumn as the cones mature and dry out and are carried by their wings on the wind for considerable distances. Can grow up to 40 metres and live for 1000 years.
Goats Willow/pussy willow (Salix capraea)
Native to Britain. Mature trees can grow to 30 metres and live for 300 years. Foliage is eaten by caterpillars of a number of moths, sallow kitten, sallow clearwing, dusky clearwing and the lunar hornet clearwing. It is also the main food source for the purple emperor butterfly. Unlike most willows, the wood is not good for weaving as its twigs are too brittle. Traditionally used for making clothes pegs and foliage for feeding to cattle. Wood burns well. The pain killer Aspirin was originally made from Salicin, a compound found in the bark of all Salix species.
Corner of Havelock Road and Belle Vue Road
Garden of the Apostolic Church.
Holm Oak (Quercus Ilex)
Also known as Holly Oak as the new evergreen leaves are spiny resembling holly leaves. Native to Mediterranean regions. Can grow to 20m. Introduced to Britain in late 1500s. The wood is incredibly hard and strong. The Romans used the wood to make wheels and agricultural tools. Today the wood is sometimes used for firewood as the fire burns slowly and is long lasting. The acorns are used to feed the pigs for Iberico ham.
In 1852, a 2-acre cemetery for Nonconformists in Shrewsbury was opened on Belle Vue Road but was ultimately superseded by the interdenominational, municipal General Cemetery established on Longden Road further west in 1856. The consequently disused mortuary chapel, which became a worship place for the Apostolic Church in 1929, was demolished after being partly burned down (by children) in 1943. It was on part of the cemetery that the present Wellspring Apostolic Church, whose building had been transplanted from Minsterley in 1949, was erected.
Trinity Street – Besford House Garden
Weymouth Pine (Pinus strobus).
Native to eastern North America. Named after Captain George Weymouth of the British Royal Navy who brought the seeds back from Maine in 1605. It has long, bluish green needles. The cones are long and narrow. Before the American Revolution, the British Crown would send people to mark the pines to reserve them for the British Navy. Specially built barges would bring them back to the UK to use them as masts for the sailing ships.
Probably planted in 1893 by Richard Maddox who lived here. He was a senior partner in Maddox Department store, on the corner of Pride Hill and High Street. The tree has a big lean towards a house, but people on the walk said the tree is regularly checked and the house owner who lives underneath, said every year he goes to the same place to check for a change in lean!
School Lane, Holy Trinity Churchyard
Yew Trees (Taxux baccata). Native.
They can reach over 2000 years of age. The yew tree in Norbury, near Bishops Castle is 1200 years old. One method of calculating its age, puts this tree at over 200 years old. 24 yew trees in Britain have girths exceeding 10 m and using this same formula, are believed to predate Christianity. Yews carry male and female flowers on different trees and it is the female trees which carry the red berries in autumn. These are male. Yew hedges in particular are incredibly dense, offering protection and nesting opportunities for many birds. The UK’s smallest birds - the goldcrest and firecrest - nest in broadleaf woodland with a yew understorey. The fruit is eaten by birds such as the blackbird, mistle thrush, song thrush and fieldfare, and small mammals such as squirrels and dormice. The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of the satin beauty moth.
Yew trees have long been associated with churchyards and there are at least 500 churchyards in England which contain yew trees older than the building itself. It is not clear why, but it has been suggested that yew trees were planted on the graves of plague victims to protect and purify the dead, but also that graveyards were inaccessible to cows, which would die if they ate the leaves.
Yew trees were used as symbols of immortality, but also seen as omens of doom. For many centuries it was the custom for yew branches to be carried on Palm Sunday and at funerals. In Ireland it was said that the yew was ‘the coffin of the vine’, as wine barrels were made of yew staves. Yew timber is rich orange-brown in colour, closely grained and incredibly strong and durable (hence why old trees can remain standing with hollow trunks). Traditionally the wood was used in turnery and to make long bows and tool handles. One of the world's oldest surviving wooden artefacts is a yew spear head, found in 1911 at Clacton-on-Sea, in Essex, UK. It is estimated to be about 450,000 years old.
Back Lime Street Footpath, Poultney Gardens
Tulip Tree – (Liriodendrumt ulipifera)
From eastern North America. Has yellow/green flowers resembling tulips, hence the tree name. Grows to 18-50 metres high. The wood is used in cabinet making and furniture making. Used to be used for dugout canoes by eastern North Americans. On the trail night, the flowers were found to be out, beautiful orange and green tulip shaped flowers, a treat for us to see.
Golden Rain Tree (Koelruteria paniculata)
From the Far East, they have large panicle of small yellow flowers when flowering. The street was planted by the Council and trees chosen by the then Shrewsbury Tree officer. The trees planted between the Golden Rain Trees, are Liquidambar styraciflua. Some cultivars have lovely red foliage in autumn so maybe we will have to rerun the tree trail in autumn to find out.
Cedar Tree (Cedrus atlantica, or Atlas cedar)
This is s a cedar native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco (Middle Atlas, High Atlas), and that it is probably a subspecies of Lebanon cedar. When Sue and Jon Hammonds first moved in in 1985 it was over 30 metres high. After a planning appeal in 2001 we obtained permission to reduce its height to reduce the risk of it being blown over in strong gales. It's still growing as can be seen by the root damage to the pavement, our driveway and the garden walls! It is now covered by a Tree Preservation Order which means we have to obtain permission to carry out any maintenance work.
Age: As it is rooted in the earth bank that forms part of our garden we think it was probably planted at the time the house was built, which was about 1870, which makes it nearly 150 years old. However as there were detached gardens in this part of Belle Vue it could well have been planted 30 or 40 years earlier.
Maintenance: Every 4 or 5 years we remove the new growth from the branches, again this reduces its wind resistance and the chances of branches being blown off. Our tree surgeon is James Heap who has worked on the tree off and on for over 30 years.
Other Stuff: We've had owls (and bats?) living in the tree now it is just pigeons. There was an equally large beech tree half way along the boundary wall, unfortunately this caught Meripilus giganteus fungus disease in 2005 and had to be felled, (it kept us in firewood for a few years.
Corner of Oak Street/Oakley Street
Ginkgo Biloba or Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba)
Oak Street/Oakley St corner. This is a deciduous tree that matures to 100 ft and is considered to be a living fossil. It is the only surviving member of a group of ancient plants believed to have inhabited the earth up to 150 million years ago. The male trees are planted very widely all over China as they turn a striking yellow in the autumn before the leaves fall. The rotting fruits from female trees have a terrible smell! There is a much larger Ginkgo in the park by the English Bridge, by the Sixth Form College
Corkscrew Hazel (Corylus Avellana ‘Cortorta’)
Common name ‘Harry Lauder’s’ Walking Stick. Deciduous trees and large shrubs with broad leaves, and showy male catkins in early spring, followed by edible nuts.
English Oak two of them (Quercus robur or Pedunculate oak)
These trees are estimated to be about 4 and 5 m in girth and are therefore estimated to be between 200 and 300 yrs old. That means in 1810. Native species, Pedunculate and Sessile Oaks. Acorns are rarely produced before a tree is 40 years old. Pedunculate means the acorns are carried on medium to long stalks (peduncles). Sessile – the acorns are borne on short or no stalks. Acorns/oak plants used to be planted along boundaries so I did wonder if this is the old Bellevue boundary.
Poplar (Populus x euramericana)
Longden Road, see it from Rutter’s garage forecourt. These trees are almost certainly hybrids between American and European poplars and are always produced by cuttings.
Poplar Tree Poem
I wish I were a tree, a poplar I would be.
Growing high to reach the sky,
I’d grow and grow and whistle to and fro and how surprised the clouds would be to bump into a polar tree!
Food plant for many moths, caterpillars and catkins a source of food for bees and other insects. Birds eat the seeds.
Sonia Blythe remembers a row of poplar trees at the bottom of the Longden Road gardens, the Radbrook Valley beyond. This is the only one left. The sound of the tree can be heard over lots of gardens. They were cut down about 40 years ago as the landowner wanted the wood. The wood is good for roof trusses as resists woodworm. One tree remains as it used to contain a treehouse and the child who owned the treehouse, sat in it and refused to budge so the landowner took pity and left the tree!
Since completing this tree trail, The Belle Vue Tree Planting Group was formed to add more trees to our beautiful area. If you would like to see where they have been busy planting trees, head to Brook Street, off Hereford Road.
The north side of Brook Street has been planted with trees, mostly Field Maple but also Birch, Rowan and Oak. The residents are looking after the trees and decorating them for Christmas and Easter festivals.
Continue down Brook Street, turn right into Kemps Eye and take a little footpath at the end of Kemps Eye Road, head over the Railway Bridge into the Primrose Drive recreation ground. About 40 mixed fruit trees have been planted, Cherry, Plum, Damson, Apple, Pear, Hazel nut and even a Quince tree.
Steve Bristow recited an apple tree poem he has known from childhood:
If I were an apple that grew on a tree,
I’d like to fall down on a nice boy like me,
I wouldn’t stay there giving nobody joy,
I’d drop down and say, ‘eat me dear boy’!
A further 38 trees have been purchased this year with funding from the Town Council and have been planted in the recreation ground and in a new community garden behind Lunts the Chemist at the top of Brook Street.
The tree planting continues!
I have been greatly helped by Dr Andrew Gordon who has identified the Belle Vue trees for our trail. Check out the Woodland Trust, UK at THIS LINK. Or the Severn Tree Trust at THIS LINK. Wonderful tree groups/resources, why not join them? Look for them on Facebook for more information.
I also want to thank Sonia Blythe and Alan Fisher for their photos and admin help with the trail.