The Morley Square arboretum

Morley Square is the only privately owned square in Bishopston. The deeds of the 28 houses around the square, including ours, state that the house owners have the rights of access to the square and the responsibility for its maintenance. One of our main concerns are the trees, some impressively large, mapped here on BristolTrees. Although only covering half an acre, the square contains 29 species of tree, a minor arboretum.

Parrotia persica makes an excellent climbing frame

Since it was developed in the early 1890s, the population of the square has undergone great changes. In the 1891 census there were 38 children under the age of 10. This number fell as the residents aged and by 1939 there was only a single child. Thanks to some recent arrivals, the square was once again busy in summer with parents and children, a haven in the lockdown.

The children have stimulated a renewed interest in the square as a nature reserve and I recently started a blog to write about our activities and observations. 

One project has been to install, with the support of the Bristol Tree Forum, dendrometer bands on three of the trees – a white poplar, a sycamore and a yew. The blog explains how to take measurements so that families can create their own record of the growth of a tree. The vernier scale allows a precision of 0.01 cm diameter.

Sycamore trunk reading 48.47 cm diameter

Trees grow so slowly that it’s difficult to see them as increasing in size, by about a centimetre a year.  Measurements every week should reveal this invisible progress. It surprised me to see that the deciduous trees were actually shrinking slightly but things will get more exciting in spring. By this time next year, we should have the record of a full year of growth. I can hardly wait to see it!

Chris Wallace, Bristol Tree Forum

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