Ardnagashel House Estate is a highly important part of the heritage of Bantry Bay. The tree collection in the woodland has the potential to attract a substantial number of visitors from overseas each year. Ellen Hutchins Arboretum is the worthy jewel between Bantry House and Garinish Island.
Townland of Ardnagashel, between Bantry and Glengarriff, West Cork. Once an estate of about 300 acres. After WWII Ardnagashel West was sold to explorer Colonel Ronald Kaulback (1909 – 1995, right photograph), book author and Member of the Royal Geographical Society; he joined an expedition of celebrated rhododendron hunter Frank Kingdon-Ward (1885-1958).
Ellen became famous for her work on algae (seaweeds), lichens, mosses and liverworts. She found many plants new to science, and as well as producing very carefully presented specimens, she was also a talented artist and created exquisitely detailed drawings. Her finds were described and published by the leading botanists of the day, her drawings were engraved as plates in their books, and many plants have been named after her.
The history of the arboretum, including which members of the Hutchins family did the planting, is not yet very clear, but some useful new information has been found which provides an interesting bit of the story of the planting.
There are four owners of Ardnagashel during the nineteenth century who could have been responsible for the planting. These are Arthur Hutchins, from 1800 to 1838; his youngest brother Samuel, from 1839 to 1862; Samuel’s son, Emanuel, from 1862 to 1880; and Emanuel’s brother, Samuel Newburgh from 1880 to 1910. While these are the periods in which they owned the estate, more research is needed to clarify the dates for when they lived there, and were therefore more likely to be involved in planting and developing the arboretum and gardens.
Letters found recently by the Hutchins family show that after Ellen’s early death in 1815 aged 29, her youngest brother, Samuel, kept in contact with a botanist friend of Ellen’s, and that Samuel planted trees at Ardnagashel in the 1840s or early 1850s that came from Kew Gardens, London.
The botanist friend that Samuel kept in touch with was William Jackson Hooker, who become the first Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, and was knighted for his services to botany.
Two letters written by Samuel’s daughters have come to light. From one letter we learn that Samuel stayed for six weeks in lodgings on Kew Green, ‘constantly seeing Sir William and Lady Hooker and in the Gardens at all times’. In the other letter, written in 1884, we are told that a whole series of fir trees at Ardnagashel came from Kew ‘about forty years ago’ which fits well with the account of the lengthy visit there in the first letter. The second letter accompanied a parcel of cones and branches from some of the trees at Ardnagashel being sent by the Hutchins family to Kew for identification.
Ardnagashel House Estate: owned by Rent an Irish Cottage Holiday Homes, Limerick. 10 holiday homes in old buildings (stables), 8 holiday homes built in 2006/07 on ‘horse field’ on conditional planning permission No 04/9649 (23/09/2005). Owner has to protect and maintain the woodland according to ten year management plan.
East Ardnagashel: owned and re-designed during the past few years by Richard Hutchins (1915-2013) and family, no access to the public. The best myrtle wood in the British Isles.
Specialities of the woodland:
Unique arboretum, great collection of mature rhododendrons from the Himalayan mountains, a coastal path, mature woodland with trees from all over the world, some Irish Champion Trees. Tree Specialist Sir Thomas Pakenham and the Irish Tree Society visited Ardnagashel in June 2006, the International Dendrology Society came in May 2010. A German documentary on Public TV about Southwestern Irish Gardens featured Ardnagashel in April 2010. Features in magazines as “Ireland Edition”.
- Three mature cork trees (Quercus suber), probably the largest in Ireland (of which kind of imploded in spring 2011)
- An exceptional Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) with ten outstations
- The tallest Podocarpus salignus in Ireland and Britain (died autumn 2010)
- The biggest White Fir (Abies alba, in terribly bad condition, lost another of the main branches in early August 2013)
- 8 exceptional trees recorded by TROBI in 1966
Rhododendrons and camellias
Rhododendrons some exceptionally tall rhodos like R. sinogrande, some of them probably collected at a Himalayan expedition in the early thirties. Camellias among many unnamed camellias there is a rare tree Camellia ‘Cornish Snow’
Special other plants
- a quite tall Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)
- a unique and tall Trochodendron aralioides
- some rather tall treeferns (Dicksonia antartica)
- a rather tall Dove tree (Davidia involucrata)
- two tall and multistemmed Gingerbread Trees (Katsura japonica)
- a rather tall and rare Lomatia ferruginosa (Fuinque, Palmilla)
- a very rare Colorado White Fir (Abies concolor)
- two very rare Tasmanian Dacrydiums (D. cupressinum and Lagarostrobus [D.] franklinii)
- a rare Magnolia campbellii ssp. mollicomata planted in the 1970s
- walled garden
- ‘enchanted’ pond
- two stone built outdoor toilets of the 19th century
- Killeen, old burial ground (owned by the Hutchins family)
The unique place is under serious threat. Every year there is a loss of another couple of trees due to storms and choking due to briars, ivy, myrtles. There are no funds to save the place of highly historical value.