We asked our grounds volunteer and tree expert John Hornyak to tell us about the current tree planting at Lytham Hall, which is part of long term restoration plans. (In photograph, volunteer Jean planting an apple tree)
“There is something magical about planting a tree in any setting. However, to have the privilege of choosing where in Lytham Hall Estate and which species and then imagine the future importance of that individual tree, is life changing.
We have had three very hectic years clearing areas to make way for the grounds and Parkland restoration which is part of a much larger project. We have removed literally hundreds of inappropriate, overcrowded, diseased, dangerous or damaged trees in order to improve the long–term sustainability of the parkland and its habitats.
Some of the areas cleared are historically important and were never intended to be planted. They are sites of heritage value and we want to share and restore or interpret these features. Other ‘wilder’ areas although in fact totally artificial (as are all English landscapes) will be managed but retained if there is a sound ecological benefit. We are very lucky to have an enormous diversity of species at Lytham Hall, some of which have never been recorded in Lancashire before.
So what are we planting? The answer is, lots of trees. Then comes the question ‘what kind of trees?’ The answer is a wide range, with many different objectives in mind. Are they ‘British native’ trees? My answer is invariably a question. Do you know what a ‘British native’ tree is? (A British native is generally deemed to be a species resident in Britain after the last ice age after the land bridge (now the English Channel) disappeared.
To add complexity, most species existed in tiny pockets of certain counties and should not be considered native outside those areas! How restrictive is that? The excuse for this pure bred, anti-immigrant mentality is that our ‘native’ birds and mammals need indigenous foodstuffs and habitats in order to thrive and be ‘natural’.
So why do we encourage thousands of farmers to plant exotic plants like millet and non-native weeds to feed our birds? The honest answer is because it works!. Please feel free to carry on planting non-native trees and other plants if you wish. The birds will live in them, shelter and nest in them and feed on them. Try to avoid planting species which are over invasive or have little or no wildlife benefit. (That is why we are removing large sections of Rhododendron ponticum thickets and replacing them with more appropriate mixed species.)
Despite the above observations we will be planting many ‘British natives’ in the first thousand or so this year, even if they are not native to Lancashire or the Fylde, as in the case of English Oak and Beech. We will also be restoring huge sections of the ornamental gardens and parkland which will include literally thousands of species, familiar to us through Botanic Gardens and our own suburban homes.
The following examples are mainly the ‘native‘ types being planted now but will later be joined by heritage fruit collections, exotic ornamentals and a huge collection of bulbs and wild flowers in appropriate locations. Species will include: Alder, Oak, Hawthorn, Hazel, Blackthorn, Field Maple, Rowan, Birch, Willow, Cherry, Crab apple, Holly, Yew and Scots pine, to be enhanced with a wider range next year and for many years to come.
These will create wildlife habitat, food source, shelter, screening, ornamental value, educational value, noise abatement, visual enhancement and offer leisure pursuits.”
The trees and parkland will need careful management, within the framework of a master plan to restore this Registered Historic Park and Garden. If you want to be part of the magical experience of tree planting and the restoration project, please contact the estate office at the Hall to explore the variety of ways in which you could make a real difference.