The astonishing extremely tall silver fir (Abies alba) gave up its last big branch during the summer holidays (August 2013). Now the huge main stem cracked like a match. Only an upright growing branch is still alive and standing like a torch. According to Mike Collard from Future Forests, who had – in February – offered to cut most of the dead wood in order not to endanger visitors of the Holiday Homes in Ardnagashel, there should be around 40 tons of timber to be harvested now!
It is so very sad to be witness to the continuing decay of the once so special arboretum which was founded by the family of the first Irish woman botanist Ellen Hutchins. Her brothers and later some of her nephews brought special plants to the place of outstanding beauty and developed a place with a rare collection of trees. The dead silver fir was probably planted around the mid 19th century.
The Kaulback family bought a major part of the magnificent place (after WWII) and they continued to add more specimen trees and very special rhododendrons which had some decades to mature. Some of them might be rare seedlings from Col. Ronald Kaulback who went on two expeditions to the Himalayan mountains [the first as companion of renowned plant hunter Francis (Frank) Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958)]. Now every autumn and winter sees very rare and mature trees falling, breaking, cracking… Along with their surrendering to the gravity they kill precious neighbouring plants. What is not being killed by storms is being eaten by brambles and digested by lichens and moss.
Hard to believe that this place was of interest for many a celebrity who came to visit, among them:
- Taoiseach Éamonn de Valera
- Queen Juliana of the Netherlands
- Peter Markham Scott (the son of the famous explorer)
- Noel Streatfeild (who wrote The Ballet Shoes)
- Mazo de la Roche
- Joyce Grenfell
- Sir Thomas Pakenham
The above photograph was taken after a minor storm and just before the worst storm for 15 years (26th Dec 2013, 150 km/h), the seaweed went much further and is now ‘decorating’ the front verandah.
Aubrey Fennel (on the left photograph with elevated hands) is a hunter of Champion Trees and authoritative voice on their behalf. Recently he published an enormous book about the silent green giants: Heritage Trees of Ireland (The Tree Council 2013, The Collins Press, 328 pages, 24 Euro). Pages 242 and 243 are dedicated to the fabulous myrtle wood in East Ardnagashel (still owned by the Hutchins family).
Aubrey Fennel has recorded over 10,000 champion trees in Ireland for the Tree Register of Ireland’s database at the National Botanic Gardens. In June 2006 he came to Ardnagashel – together with quite a crowd from the Irish Tree Society and – of course – Sir Thomas Pakenham, the renowned tree photograph and expert (on the left photograph with the white suit).
Aubrey Fennel lives in Carlow among his own champion trees.
Ardnagashel saw a group of happy walkers this week.
They explored the area around the Walled Garden which is slowly decaying – what a shame, it would be great to make an organic potager out of it or a Mediterranean lavender garden. Now it’s mainly Japanese knotweed (and buttercups) growing here.
The stormy weather during the last days brought back lots of seaweed on to the gravel in front of Ardnagashel House. Our guests took many nice pictures and had lot of fun guessing when the next high wave would arrive and splash on them. (photograph: Antje Wendel)
Richard Hutchins is not longer among us but his presence is still strong.
He even seems to have best connections to the weather makers above. 😉 How else could it happen that after a dull, grey and rainy week the “lights” (outside) suddenly went on? On a bright and sunny afternoon – exactly a month after he deceased – a loving memorial service took place in St. Brendan’s Church in Bantry.
His long life was celebrated – from his early childhood in Ardnagashel (1915-1921) to his last weeks near London.
Ardnagashel House was decorated with his favourite flowers (daffodils which are now flowering in the fields and along the roads on the estate), with lots of greenery from his beloved tree ferns, from the giant rhododendron which he admired so much, with huge branches of myrtles (Luma apiculata) which were brought to Ardnagashel by his ancestors and with lovely twigs of a willow podocarp (Podocarpus salignus – the champion tree which stood nearby fell in autumn of 2010). Mike Collard from Future Forests in Kealkil placed vases with beautiful flowers and branches all over the place: catkins, daffodils, cherries, Dacrydium franklinii and Dacrydium cupressinum, Cryptomeria japonica and many more. More than 50 guests got a warm welcome by an amazing fragrance of woods and meadows.
Hundreds of papers, photographs, maps and many more bits and pieces illustrated Richards life and his commitment for nature, walking, cycling, youth hostels, trees and so many other activities. Here (click!) you can read and listen about his outdoor experiences, here are some other fascinating facts, hier können deutsche LeserInnen einiges über ihn nachlesen. He donated his mortal remains to the scientific world, after three years or so his ashes will be brought to the lovely Killeen in Ardnagashel. We are glad and proud having met him and being inspired by his never ending enthusiasm for all things ‘green’. We will try to continue his work in saving the precious arboretum of Ardnagashel which was once established by Ireland’s first women botanist Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815) and her brothers Arthur and Samuel Hutchins (Richard’s great-grandfather). It is a national treasure but so far hardly anybody is interested in this asset of valuable historical interest. Hopefully the day will come – before it’s too late as the place is terribly endangered. We thank Richard’s family for their generous sharing of their family treasures.
Recently we learnt that Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (1909-2004) was in Ardnagashel – as a guest of Ronald and Audrey Kaulback. Another celebrity visitor was ornithologist Sir Peter Markham Scott (1909-1989), the son of the famous explorer. The leading Irish statesman for over half a century Éamonn de Valera came to see the wonderful house and park. He was a friend to Roland Bryce of Garinish Island – son of the founders. The garden island was bequeathed to him and the Irish people.
Noel Streatfeild (1895-1986) the author of many a children’s book, among them the famous “Ballet Shoes” (recent movie with Emma Watson 2007), was friends with Rachel White, the aunt of the recently deceased heir of Bantry House Egerton Shelswell-White. She had met Rachel during the war (working for WVS in WW 2) and as Noel considered her favourite place of all to be Ireland they met on her regular annual visits (Angela Bull: Noel Streatfeild, 1984, p. 232). During (at least) one of those visits she also came to see Ardnagashel .
A recent visit from a celebrity took place in June 2006. Sir Thomas Pakenham (photograph), historian, author and arborist came with a delegation of The Irish Tree Society. They were impressed by the remains of the wonderful arboretum of Ardnagashel and hoped that there would come up some funding to save the place… Instead came the recession and the death of two Irish champion trees.
Though being extremely cold after a long spell of quite warm weather the cherry trees are in full flower.
The Ardnagashel House is looking better every day and is now host to a walking group from Germany and Austria.
Two men from the mussel industry came to clean the beach from plastic rubbish.