The W.G. Grace Beeches on the Downs

These seven Beech trees on Clifton and Durdham Downs are the last surviving vestiges of some 16 trees which were planted in the late 1860s as the boundary markers for the first Gloucester County Cricket ground. The boundary was also marked by fence posts in between the trees.

Dr W.G. Grace was, of course, the major mover in the creation of the county team and of the original cricket ground. However, they found that it was more or less impossible to establish a paying audience on the site so, after just one match, moved it to Clifton College where they could more easily charge – and have a much better pitch! Unfortunately that meant that they could only play in August during the college’s summer vacation, so they then moved to the present county ground in Bishopston.

Using the girths with the Trees of Bristol Age Calculator, the tree ages range from 85 to 180 years. There is a cluster of ages around 150 giving a planting date of 1867, but we wonder why the range is so large. Were a couple replanted and why is the tree by the southernmost end so much larger than the others at over 4.5 metres in diameter – especially as it does not appear on either map below?

The 1880s Epoch 1 map shows the cricket ground but does not show the trees – though we understand that they had been planted by then.

Durdham Downs 1880

They do, however, appear the 1900 Epoch 2 map.

Durdham Downs 1900

These maps may be accessed by using the historic layers of Bristol City Council’s Pinpoint map.

South West alert: Sweet Chestnut Blight

This has just been received from Mark Prior Forestry Commission Area Director | South West England.

“I am writing to you with information about an outbreak of sweet chestnut blight in the South West and to notify you of four 5 km zones that are subject to movement restrictions.

Sweet chestnut blight is caused by a fungus called Cryphonectria parasitica, which gets into the trees through wounds or graft sites. Although oak trees suffer very little damage if they are infected by the fungus, they can spread it, so restrictions on movements of oak material are also required as a precaution.

Sweet chestnut blight was found in Devon in December 2016, initially south of Exeter. We wrote to our Devon contacts in January to inform them and again last week to let them know about two restricted zones; you may have seen articles in the forestry or local media about this. As a result of related survey and tracing work, we have now identified another zone in Devon and one in Dorset where restrictions are required. We are now writing to all our South West contacts to let you know what we are doing to manage the outbreak and to inform you about the movement restrictions.

Managing the outbreak

The Government is committed to doing all it can to prevent plant pests and diseases crossing our borders, and although we cannot eliminate all risks, we have stringent plans to deal with threats, and take prompt action when they are detected. To this end we work collaboratively with the international community, industry, NGOs, landowners and the public to reduce the risks of pests and diseases entering the country and to mitigate the impact of newly established ones. 

  1. parasitica is a quarantine organism, so the Government’s Chief Plant Health Officer has activated our contingency plan for such an event, in compliance with our obligations under the UK’s Protected Zone status for this disease. We and our colleagues in the Animal & Plant Health Agency (APHA) moved quickly to implement the contingency plan, and in particular we have taken the following measures.
  • We have conducted an intensive survey of sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) trees within a 1 km radius of each site with a confirmed infection.
  • We have also carried out a targeted survey of sweet chestnut trees within 5 km of each site.
  • We are tracing and inspecting sweet chestnut trees at other planting sites that used stock from the same planting years.

Movement restrictions

UK plant health authorities have introduced a prohibition on the movement of sweet chestnut and oak material within four specific zones in Devon and Dorset. A prohibition on two zones in Devon came into force on Friday 24 February 2017. Two more will come into force on Thursday 9 March 2017, one in Devon and one in Dorset. The exact boundaries of all of these zones are shown in notices and maps on the Forestry Commission and websites (please scroll to the end of the notice for the map). The zones will remain in place until further notice and will be kept under review.

This prohibition is implemented by Plant Health (Sweet Chestnut Blight) (England) Order 178/2017. It makes it illegal to move sweet chestnut material including plants, logs, branches, foliage and firewood out of, or within, zones covering a 5 kilometre (3.2 mile) radius of the affected sites where sweet chestnut blight has been found. The same restrictions apply to oak within 1 kilometre (0.62 mile) of the same sites. Exceptions to this movement prohibition include oak or sweet chestnut material entering and exiting the zones without stopping. For example, the delivery of plants, logs or firewood which start and end their journeys outside the zones is permitted.

Exceptions may also be granted in certain circumstances by the Forestry Commission ( or telephone 0300 067 4960), in the case of woodland sites, or by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) Plant Health & Seeds Inspectorate, for horticultural requests (01904 405138 or by emailing

The Forestry Commission and APHA are working closely together to carry out tracing activity and inspecting sweet chestnut trees at other sites which may lead to more zones being established. Further advice will follow should this be necessary.

Further information and a symptoms fact sheet and pest alert are available on our website to help you know what to look for when inspecting your trees.”

Please pass on the message.

Finding a Bristol tree on the move

The Trees of Bristol web site provides an interactive guide to the trees in and around Bristol. Currently there are nearly 66,500 live trees recorded – about 67,500 when tree stump and planting sites are included. These cover over 1,000 species, varieties and cultivars in more than 2,100 sites dotted around the city, many within easy walking distance.

If you have a GPS-enabled Android Phone with Firefox installed (they are working on Chrome) or an iPhone with Safari installed, you might like to add this this location-aware page to help you locate and identify Bristol’s many remarkable trees whilst you are on the move. This page will load all the trees in a given area around the phone’s location. As you move, the map will show trees within the range you have set, highlighting and detailing the nearest tree to you.

Why not try it out when you are next out an about in Bristol. You will be amazed and the many, varied and beautiful trees what the city has to offer, even in the heart of the city.


Crisis for the Bristol Environment

Trees, parks and the financial crisis

The recent decisions made by the City Council in response to the drastic cuts made by the government will create a dramatically changed world for the whole Bristol environment. We have got used to our street trees being manicured, our parks being regularly mown and tended, new trees being widely and enthusiastically planted, developer’s plans being closely monitored. We may have moaned about minor inefficiencies, criticised delays and decisions, but we have expected to be listened to and mostly we have been.

It is all going to change. By 2020 Bristol parks are going to have to find their own finance, parks users will have to pay for the privilege of using them and parks groups will have to take over maintenance. Street trees will cease to be pollarded. Last winter leaves were not swept until they had all fallen, and only now have most gutters been cleared. Next autumn sweep your own gutters and keep your own gutters clear, the Council won’t be able to do it!

And it will be no use protesting, shouting, writing rude e-mails to your local Councillor. There is little that they can do. Its put-your-money-time-and-effort-where-your-mouth-is time. Getting out there, talking and co-operating with your neighbours, getting wet, doing the stuff that needs to be done – as many are already doing. There are lots of dangers in this. There will be a degree of chaos, there will be mistakes. But it is also an opportunity to ‘act local’ and show that we are all responsible for where we live, that the parks are our parks, that we value trees and our public spaces, that we don’t expect “them” to solve all our problems.

And there will be some ‘up side’. The natural world is an exuberant world. Things may be less tidy, but biodiversity thrives in messy places. Unswept gutters and untrimmed hedges may cause problems, but we can help ourselves to resolve these issues – and hedge trimmings and fallen leaves makes great leaf mould.

Here is the a “dead hedge” on the downs, rebuilt by volunteer labour last month to help protect the wildflower meadow beside it from joggers; just one example of what self-help can do.


Who knows, we might even get our urban sparrows back.

Richard Bland  March 2017

A secret arboretum


Knoll Hill Woodland Trust Reserve in Sneyd Park is the remains of the great garden and estate of Bishops Knoll. The developers did not want it, so the Woodland Trust bought it, and recently have been doing a lot of restoration work. It is very little known because the only car access to it is down at the bottom of Bramble Lane in Sneyd Park, though you can walk into it from the new Avon Wildlife Trust Reserve of Bennett’s Patch.

The major trees in it have recently been labelled. It has the largest Oak in the city, seven metres in girth, with huge spreading limbs that appear to be writhing into the sky like an octopus. It is, unusually, a Sessile Oak. It is quite close to the entrance, but, in summer at least, almost invisible until you are up close. It is clearly much older than the estate itself which was created in 1862.

The Knoll Hill Oak in winter – Bristol’s largest oak with a girth of 7 metres

Lower down the steep path there is the largest Austrian Pine in the city, 4.6 metres in girth, with a massive crown and broken and twisted branches evidence perhaps of the Burns-night storm of 1990. At the bottom of the reserve there is a line of planting that must have been done when the Severn Beach railway line was built in 1875. It includes several Western Red Cedars, three Coast Redwoods, one the largest in the city, which tower over all the other trees, a magnificent Jeffreys Pine, one of only two in the city, which is the pine with the largest needles of all, and a Fern-leaf Beech, one of three in the city.

The most dramatic tree of all is a Monterey Cypress, which must have been one of the first imported into this country, with a 710 cm girth. It is a species that was one of the parents of Leylandii, and is well known for the speed with which it grows. It dominates the hillside, and would have been far more striking before all the young ash trees that surround it sprang up. The estate is also dotted with a dozen veteran oaks, some of them pollards, and all two hundred years old or more, which would have been growing in the wood pasture when the Knoll Hill estate was established.

The Monterey Cypress – Champion of the reserve with a 7.1 metre girth



Bristol One Tree Per Child – Jan/Feb 2017

Here is the Bristol One Tree Per Child programme for January & February 2017:


Trees can be planted free of charge if it is part of the primary school project called One Tree Per Child which combines school children, education and planting new trees.

One Tree Per Child January & February 2017 programme 2017.pdf

Sponsor or adopt a Bristol tree

Bristol City Council is dedicated to planting as many trees as possible in our city. In just two years TreeBristol has already successfully planted more than 39,000 trees! However, many more are still needed – especially in our streets. With your help we can plant many more. It is very easy.

How can I sponsor a tree?

You or your community can sponsor a tree that hasn’t been planted yet. This might be for a celebration such as a wedding or a birthday, or for a living memorial – or just because you love trees. The costs of sponsorship is quite small – especially if your community can help:

  • for £295 the Council will provide the tree, plant it and water it for two years to make sure it establishes.
  • for just £175 the Council will provide the tree and plant it, but you will be responsible for watering it until it becomes established.

Finding a tree you can sponsor

  1. Visit the Council’s PinPoint tree sponsorship map to locate a new tree site you can sponsor.
  2. View and select any tree icon on the map to find out more and make your decision.


  1. Once you have decided, click on View (Adobe PDF format) to open the Sponsorship form.
  2. The form will use a unique tree reference based on the site you have selected – in the example above its: Site: Rockside Drive; tree: Null; plot: 100008.5.
  3. Save the form by selecting File/Save as and select where to save it. You can then email the form to
  4. If you prefer, you can print the form off direct, complete it and post it to TreeBristol at PO Box 3176, Bristol, BS3 9FS. This is the Sponsorship form.

When the form is received, the Council will check that the site is still available. If the tree is not available, you will be asked to choose another site. The Council will then advise you how to pay, confirm your sponsorship and, once the tree is planted, send you a certificate and a site map of your tree so you can visit it.

If you would like a particular species planted this is possible, though the council does follow careful guidelines which encourage planting the right tree in the right place to ensure sustainability and biodiversity. To learn more, look at our blog on choosing a tree.

Remember, to give your tree its best chance of survival, it will only be planted during the planting season which is between the beginning of December and the end of the following March.

Can I adopt a tree or a woodland?

It is easy to adopt a tree or a woodland that has already been planted for a small cost:

  • £35 to adopt a tree
  • £10 to adopt a woodland share

You can also adopt a tree by placing a plaque on the tree with up to seven words on. This costs £25.

Finding a tree or woodland you can adopt

  1. Visit at the Council’s PinPoint tree adoption map to locate a tree  or wood you can adopt.
  2. View and select any tree icon on the map to find out more and make your decision.


  1. Once you have decided, click on View (Adobe PDF format) to open the Adoption form.
  2. The form will use a unique tree woodland share reference based on the site you have selected – in the example above its: Site: Redcatch Park; tree: Silver birch; plot: 100237.
  3. Save the form by selecting File/Save as and select where you to save it. You can then email it to
  4. If you prefer, you can print the form off direct, complete it and post it to TreeBristol at PO Box 3176, Bristol, BS3 9FS. This is the Adoption form.

When the form is received, the Council will check that the site is still available. If the tree is not available, you will be asked to choose another site. The Council will then advise you how to pay and post you a certificate and site map of your tree, or a certificate of your woodland share.

If you would like to learn more, visit TreeBristol on the Council’s website or, if you prefer, contact us and we can help you.

Bristol’s remarkable trees mapped

Bristol Tree Forum has just added a new page to our web site. The new Trees of Bristol page provides access to an interactive guide to many of Bristol’s remarkable public tree collections – collections which are accessible to us all in and around the city including Clifton and Durdham Downs, Ashton Court Estate, Kings Weston Estate, Bishops Knoll and many other open and green spaces such as Eastville, St Andrews and Victoria parks.

We aim to help those who love and care for trees to track down and visit any of over 100 locations where trees can be enjoyed. We have already mapped some 15,000 trees (and growing), many of which are within easy walking or cycling distance.

There is also a special Stumps Collection page which builds on Bristol City Council’s trees data and shows all the sites in the city where there is an opportunity for any of us to have a new replacement tree planted. If you are interested in planting a tree at one of these locations, please take a look at our Become a tree champion page and contact us.

Choosing trees for public spaces – how Bristol City Council does it

When Bristol City Council (BCC) decides to plant a new tree in a public space they use a structured process when deciding what sort of tree to plant.

This is based on right-tree-in-the-right-place principles which aim to ensure a balanced, bio-diversity of trees across both the local and the overall urban tree population – BCC curates over 52,000 trees in the Bristol urban area.

The Council also uses a 30:20:10 guide when selecting a tree species -choosing no more than 30% from any family, 20% from any genus and 10% of any species.  Their tree planting guide aims to discourage thinking first about what species to plant – but poses the question What do you want the tree to do?  They aim to promote a structured and sequential selection process that follows a logical decision path:

Function? => Diversity? => Design? => Species? => Support? => Placement?

Using these principles, the Council’s tree officers generally try to steer local communities away from choosing a tree species in the first instance, but instead seek to encourage them to decide where trees are to be planted and why. BCC can then match the species to the need, based on their extensive experience of what grows best where, what the likely cost will be (not just the cost of the tree, but also the costs involved in protecting and caring for it once it has been planted) and how the chosen tree will perform over its lifetime.

Looking at the 4,880 trees planted by BCC since 2008, this is what the species/genus/family distribution looks like:

By Species


By Genus


By Family


The Forestry Commission run a right tree right place species selector – Main UK Tree Selector guide. It is useful, but you will have to have a password to use it.

You can also take a look at these links if you would like to learn more:

BCC – Tree Planting Design Guide Supporting Notes

Database helps plant ‘right tree for the right place’

Landscape and Urban Planning journal

Forestry Commission, Scotland

Bristol Tree Forum – Public meeting report

The meeting was held at the Civic Centre on Monday 14 November 2016

The chair welcomed the 30 people present. In a swift AGM the existing committee were re-elected, and others encouraged to join. The next meeting of the committee is fixed for January 16th at 8 Edgecombe Rd, 7.45 pm. The chair congratulated the new webmaster Mark Ashdown on the new web site at

Richard Ennion, ‎Horticultural Service Manager at Bristol City Council, then outlined the way in which the One Tree per Child programme is spreading across Britain, and that other nations are also interested. There has been an event in the Lords, and an international conference, and Bristol is very much in the lead.

The aim is to ensure every child has the experience of planting a tree. Some 39,000 trees had been planted last winter and it is intended to plant another 6,000 this winter for the new entrants. Some 14,000 fruit trees had been taken home by children, and every primary school in the city had been involved. He said that he was pleased that there had been no serious problems of tree survival or of vandalism.

A discussion followed about the protocol for replacing trees that had been felled, especially in streets. There was concern about the accuracy of stump maps, and Mark Ashdown and John Tarlton were working on this. The cost of a replacement tree in an existing site was £295. The sponsorship system introduced by Trees Bristol was not perfect, but did work. Concerns were expressed about use of former pits by Wessex Water for meters, and some lack of joined-up action with highways, and Metrobus.

Teresa Crichton outlined a programme of events has been drawn up for the rest of this year, and the existence of a training programme and a system of checking trees that had been planted. Support for One Tree per Child events would be very welcome.

Stephanie French outlined the system for checking planning applications, and saving existing trees from being felled. She urged those present to take up the challenge in their area. She had drawn up a guidance document that was on the website, and offered help.

Joe Middleton of the Woodland Trust then outlined the work he was involved in in the Bishops Knoll Reserve, and Jim Smith outlined his experiences in Filwood, where he was the designated Tree Warden.

Volunteers needed. Anyone wanting to join the committee, or who is prepared to check planning applications, or who is prepared to be the Tree Representative for a Neighbourhood forum please contact us using our web Contact page.

The chair concluded by thanking, in particular, the council officers and Councillors who had given up their time to support and advise the forum.

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