Kilravock Castle Layering Beech
The Meckleor Beech Hedge
The Pollock Park Beech
Belonging to the same family as the Oaks, the Beeches (Fagus sylvatica) occur across a large part of the world. They are not found in Africa or southern Asia; However they are abundant in Europe but also in Japan, New Zealand, South Australia, Tasmania, Tierra del Fuego, North America, Norway, Spain, and Asia Minor.
Culpeper states that the leaves of the beech tree are "cooling and binding and therefore good to be applied to hot swellings". The water found accumulated in the hollows in the trunk and branches, he says, cures both man and beast of "of any scurf, scab or running tetters, if they be washed therewith". The leaves may be boiled and made into a poultice or ointment.
In the Chilterns, you can find rare examples of a beech coppice, which looks like gnarled bonsai stumps bearing shaggy sprays of boughs. These are the beeches which would have been familiar to mediaeval people; they were the rule not the exception. There Was no need for large beech trees in the days before the timber yard. Julius Caesar remarked that he found no beech trees in England but he was probably looking for large trees.
Unfortunately deer and grey squirrels nibbling away at our beech trees have taken their toll and there are now many genuinely sick beeches in evidence. Stressed-out beeches suffer from a variety of ailments, including beech bark disease, a fungal infection spread by a scale insect. And, experiments have shown, beech is more vulnerable than native oak to the dreaded sudden oak death disease, which has recently spread into parks and woods from garden centres.
It was during a mission to the mills of Lambeg in the Laggan Valley on the outskirts of Lisburn, Ireland in 1787, that he planted the trees, while staying with the Wolfenden family at Chrome hill.
Wesley often preached under trees and the Pulpit Yew, discussed elsewhere, is another tree associated with Wesley.
Kilravock Castle (pronounced Kilrawck) is on the B9091 road between Croy and Clephanton, approximately 10 miles east of Inverness and the A9 and is administered by Ellel Ministries as a hotel and religious retreat. Before you make a wasted journey, please note that access is available only with permission. The tree is situated On a low bank alongside the driveway to the Castle.
The huge trunk measures 16 feet in girth at 3.3 feet above ground level, and it is surrounded by low, snaking limbs, many of which have drooped to the ground and taken root forming small trees in their own right. The tree has been repeatedly pollarded in the past, and the dense, multi-stemmed crown typical of such trees is still in good condition.
The tree is also known as the Kissing Beech, after a member of an early owner’s family and a housemaid were witnessed in an illicit embrace under its spreading limbs. The extensive carving of lovers’ names on the bark suggests that many others have used this tree as a rendezvous. The smooth grey bark of Beech trees has always made them attractive to lovers because it is easy to inscribe on theme and they are often known as ‘trysting trees’.
Kilravock Castle was built in 1460 and has seen many famous visitors over the centuries, including Mary, Queen of Scots in 1562 and Robert Burns in 1787. Bonnie Prince Charlie is reputed to have been entertained within its thick walls the day before the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
|The Heritage Trees of Britain and Northern Ireland||Jon Stokes and Donald Rodger||Constable|
|The Oxford Companion to English Literature||Sir Paul Harvey||OUP|
|The Observer's Book of Trees||Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd.|
|Tree Yoga - A Workbook||Satya Singh & Fred Hageneder||Earthdancer|
|The Complete Herbal||Nicholas Culpeper||Greenwich Editions|
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© Ken James 2008