A quick guide to Ambleside, Lake District

Exploring Loughrigg Fell with Windermere in the background.

Written by Holly Brega who lived in Ambleside during studying her BA in Wildlife and Media at the University and has been coming here every year since she was a child.

Ambleside: With an average of 180 rainy days a year Ambleside I have to say is most probably one of the best places to be based when visiting the Lake District.

Surrounded by mountains and close to England’s largest natural lake, Windermere. This old market town is home to one of the campus’ for the University of Cumbria where students on Outdoor degrees are based. 

Looking towards the school, church and park. St Mary's Parish Church in Ambleside.
Looking towards the school, church and park

500 million years have produced this landscape, and more recently as the ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age about 12,000 years ago the climate grew warmer and plants began to grow. Most of the land here was then covered in forest and over time the neolithic people set up permanent homes (around 4,000-2,000 BC).

Overlooking Windermere water.
Overlooking Windermere

The land of Helvellyn and Fairfield are some of the most important areas for arctic alpine plants in the whole of England. Plants include saxifrages and downy willow. Damage mainly occurs with walkers and climbers, however there are many companies working on reducing footpath erosion in the Lakes.

A bridge you cross on the way up the Fairfield Horseshoe.
A bridge you cross on the way up the Fairfield Horseshoe

The Pale Tussock is part of the moth family, Erebidae. They are common throughout England and Wales in particular Cumbria and they prefer to live in bushy places like woodlands and hedgerows.

Pale Tussock caterpillar  (Calliteara pudibunda).
Pale Tussock caterpillar  (Calliteara pudibunda)

They are sexually dimorphic where the same species show different characteristics, as the markings are more extensive on the males, which I guess goes for many male species. 

Dung beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius)
Dung beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius)

This type of Dung beetle falls under the ‘tunnellers’ category. These mainly live under dung, so can be seen mainly around fields of cows in the Lakes.

These beetles live entirely on dung, from cow, sheep and deer to name a few. They are important for the ecosystem by putting the dung back into the soil and rejuvenating it. There was a raise in conversational concern after Natural England commissioned a range of reports to find out how they were doing and it came out that about 50% of dung beetles were scarce or threatened and this is down to agricultural practices.

St Mary's Parish Church Ambleside
St Mary’s Parish Church Ambleside

Historic people in Ambleside include William Wordsworth.

William Wordsworth work here as a distributor of stamps and lived in the Old Stamp House before moving to Rydal Mount with his family. The Old Stamp House is now a Michelin star restaurant and recently won an award for best restaurant in the world, but surely that is subjective so not entirely sure how legit that is. 

The Bridge House over the stream
The Bridge House over the stream

Harriet Martineau also lived here…

Harriet Martineau. Credit National Portrait Gallery
Harriet Martineau. Credit National Portrait Gallery

Harriet was a victorian superstar. She opposed the fact that her brothers were educated for a career and she was to just stay at home and become a wife. She wrote numerous articles for the Monthly Repository (a journal which supported the suffragettes, the abolition of slavery, national education and changes to the Poor Laws). She was deaf since a child so finding a job once her father died wouldn’t have been easy during those times, if it wasn’t for her writing. 

She moved to Ambleside in 1845 and designed her house after falling ill whilst travelling in Europe. She was so proactive and really deserves her own blog (I will have to get around to that).

She continued to write and whilst in the Lake District she wrote Eastern Life, Present and Past (1848) and History of the Peace (1849), Letters on the Laws of Man’s Nature and Development (1851),

View to Ambleside from the a route up to Loughrigg
View to Ambleside from the a route up to Loughrigg

How to get there 

The closest train station is Windermere then there are plenty of buses that go to and from Ambleside. 

Flying Fleece Lakeland Pub
Flying Fleece Lakeland Pub

The area of course wants more people to travel on public transport and whereas that would be great for the environment, if you want to go and do a long walk getting to and from  on a bus may not work with your route, or you might fear missing the bus on the way home which makes the walk not as enjoyable. However, there are many buses and so many routes that go from all towns and villages in the National Park. 

The Ambleside Inn, part of the Inn Collection Group
The Ambleside Inn, part of the Inn Collection Group

There are talks about potentially charging cars to enter the Lake District, but how they would actually keep on top of that or even set it up, verses the tourism that they may miss out on. There are many factors to consider and I will keep my ears open for updates. 

Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Ambleside Inn
Sticky Toffee Pudding at the Ambleside Inn

Walks 

Below are a few links to routes on OS maps of my favourite walks from the centre of Ambleside.

Walking up to Loughrigg with Ambleside in background
Walking up to Loughrigg with Ambleside in background

Additional Features 

Normally I’d spend the day in Ambleside when the weather is pretty rubbish up on the hills. So a normal day would start off getting a hot baguette from the Picnic Box, the standard being bacon, chicken, cheese, mayo and bbq sauce (no salad). This has cured many student hangovers..

The Picnic Box
The Picnic Box

The climbing wall at Adventure Peaks is then a good spot for an hour or so. Then a spot of shopping for more outdoor gear that I probably don’t need at Alpkit. A favourite spot was the attic in the Epi-Centre but now that has gone I don’t bother there so much. I can however comment on the service at Alpkit. The staff go above and beyond and the range of gear they have is continually changing and the women’s clothing isn’t all pink! Finally! 5/5 review.

Alpkit in Ambleside
Alpkit in Ambleside

Lunch in the Apple Pie Cafe is normally a good shout, the queues can sometimes be off-putting, but if it is really raining then you’ll want to sit indoors! 

The Apple Pie shop on the main throughroad
The Apple Pie shop on the main throughroad

After lunch we’d normally walk up to Stock Ghyll Force. It’s a pretty waterfall walk, especially in Autumn. We all know that the outdoors is great for mental health, and physical but no matter what the weather I always try to get outdoors, especially if we’ve made the trip to the Lakes, then making the most of it is a high priority. 

Stock Ghyll Waterfall
Stock Ghyll Waterfall

So overall, Ambleside will always have a place in my heart, but I will still continue to hold off going there in peak season.

Rothay Park in Ambleside in Winter
Rothay Park in Winter

Similar Blog: Read ‘A Quick Guide to Patterdale’ here.

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A hot brew on a mountain side.

So 2022 is looking like a great year for kit innovation and provided the country(ies) stays open, it will be a full year of adventures. Personally my plan is to pack up the van with camping gear and head to Europe on a year long overland trip, doing the ‘Schengen Shuffle’ along the way (3 months in Schengen countries, followed by 3 months out – new Brexit rules, ‘sigh’).

So in light of the fun and all round festivities, I wanted to take a sneak peak at some of the new gear that Robens is bringing out and one of my favourite items that I can’t wait to try out is the new Klondike PRS tent. It is 11.2kg which is lighter than the canvas version (16.7kg) and it also has a chimney channel through the roof which I am looking forward to testing out with the Denali Tent Stove. 

Photo credit: Robens

The front entrance panel on the floor is flat, so potentially it is a tent that is accessible for wheelchair users and being able to comfortably house six people it can easily have less people with more space for gear like wheelchairs or extra food (so you don’t have to skimp on the chocolate)! 

I feel this tent will be most at home nestled in the woodlands on the edge of the mountain range overlooking the surrounding, white dusted peaks with a hot brew (Yorkshire of course) and the warmth of the stove filling the air. This vision is crystal clear in my imagination and now we just need it to come to life… (fingers crossed no restrictions) I will update you on how I get on when I am living this picture perfect scene.  

You can find out more about the Robens Klondike PRS tent here.

Photo credit: Robens

Robens Trace Hammock at the Wilderness Gathering

Just a little note: I pitched this slightly differently than how Robens recommend. See their video here.

So in this video I test out the Robens Trace Hammock from the 2022 range, whilst at the Wilderness Gathering, a bushcraft festival in Wiltshire based at the Bush Farm Bison Centre! It is a festival for those who love spending time in the nature, creating magical things out of wood, for people who love knifes (and meat), but ultimately it is somewhere for people to go, sit by a campfire and exchange stories.

I think this hammock set is a really nifty set up and is more than just your average hammock. It has a whole range of extra little clips, zips and straps which, okay, might be a little more fiddle-y, but worth it when you are comfortable and cosy in the woods with the owls singing softly around you.

These products were gifted from Robens for me to test out in a variety of situations. To find out more about the featured items check out the links below. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.

Trace Hammock Set – a neat hammock that comes with slings and carabiners.

Available here. £40.99

Trace Hammock Underquilt – if camping with the car then this is a great extra layer for woodland nights out.

Available here: £55.00

Trace Hammock Mosquito Net – no one wants to get bitten at night and this net is specifically designed for hammocks.

Available here. £25.99

Icefall Pro 600 Sleeping Bag – a great non-down sleeping bag.

Available here. £154.99

Trace Hammock Ultimate Set

Bonus Item: Trace Ultimate Hammock Set – this is a great all in one bundle for all your hammock needs! It comes with a hammock with integrated mosquito net, a tarp, slings and carabiners.

Available here. £100.00

Tent pitch in the Lake District and a walk up Great Gable

I love the Lake District and I haven’t been back to Borrowdale since helping film Best Walks With A View for ITV. The weather was pretty warm and bright so we decided to head up Great Gable. Standing at 899m, it’s not the tallest in the Lakes, however the incline is pretty high as you are starting at about 120 meters.

When looking for gear I want something lightweight and compact so that it takes as little space as possible in the van whilst not adding too much weight as we are travelling a lot of miles, so every little helps. These products were gifted from Robens for me to test out in a variety of situations. To find out more about the featured items check out the links below.

Robens Challengers 2 Tent – a great two person tent which I am looking forward to taking out with my partner on the hills!

Available here. £199.99

Traveler Chair – to be honest I was a bit sceptical about how comfortable this would be but wow I was surprised and impressed. For a light piece of kit this is easy to take with you on all adventures.

Available here: £23.99

Adventure Aluminium Table Small – a nifty table which is sturdy, quick and easy to put up and away.

Available here. £44.99

Ambleside C66 Walking Poles – some of the lightest poles on the market and always attached to a rucksack on a walk.

Available here. £92.99

Leaf Flask 0.7l Ocean – a really great sized water bottle with useful hoop and fits in side pocket of rucksack easily.

Available here. £8.99

Robens Challenger 2 Tent and 5 minute morning yoga

During lockdown 1 I obviously couldn’t go camping up in the mountains so my back garden was the perfect location for an overnight camp and morning yoga.

This product was gifted – to find out more about the gear featured check out the links below.

Robens Challengers 2 Tent is a great two man tent which I am looking forward to taking out in the mountains this summer!

Available here. £199.99

Prairie Sleeping Bag. My favourite piece of Robens gear this season is the Prairie Sleeping Bag. It is PFC free and has a hard duty canvas outer which fits in perfectly in the wilderness!

Sawel Head torch – takes 3 AAA batteries and is comfortable to wear. Available here. £16.99

Robens Osprey 2EX Test and canoe up the River Thet

This is a film pitching the Robens Osprey 2EX and setting up camp followed by a peaceful canoe up the River Thet.

You can find out more about the gear that was used in the links below.

Pilgrim Chair – a great space saver and easy to carry – Available here £77.99

Fire Bug Stove Titanium – the perfect, small and lightweight stove for backpacking – Available here £67.00

Frontier Cook Set M – also comes in large, it fits snuggly together and the gas and the Fire Bug can fit inside the pot – Available here £44.99

Robens River Elk 1 Tent and Coniston Water

I had the pleasure of testing out the Robens Elk River 1 tent on the shores of Coniston Water in the Lake District between lockdowns in 2020. I also took a look at the Prima vapour sleeping mat, Serac sleeping bag and the Fire Moth cooking set.

Gear was gifted for independent testing. To find out more check out the links below.

River Elk 1 – A great little one person tent for backpacking – available here £299.99

PrimaVapour 40 – Perfect for summer backpacking and one of the lightest I have carried – available here £89.99

Serac 600 – It is filled with traceable down so lightweight but I am intrigued to try Robens new down free sleeping bags – available here £269.99

Leaf Flask 0.7l Ocean – this is my favourite water bottle, it comes everywhere, fitting easily in a backpack side pocket or on the bike bottle holder – available here £8.99

Fire Moth System – this is a great gas cooking system boiling the water for my cuppa within a minute or so – available here £73.99

BMC Women in Adventure Film Competition

I am thrilled to announce that my film Pioneer has been listed in the BMC Women in Adventure Film Competition 2021.

Celebrating the early pioneering women who paved the way allowing us all to have the opportunity to go outdoors, explore and experience the world. Pioneer is about inclusivity; how anyone from a minority can make a change, how the great outdoors and nature is there for everyone to enjoy.

I wanted to combine my love of period pieces to my love of walking, the outdoors and being surrounded by Nature. So this piece is less about climbing the highest mountain but more about the ideal that Nature is there for everyone to enjoy.

One of the prizes is done on views so I would love for you to watch and share if possible. To find out more about the competition and watch some of the other great films here.

Thank you for your support. Holly.

Holly’s Tree Identification Record Book

This record book will help you identify and become familiar with 30 British tree species.  Of these 21 are native, 5 are naturalised or commonly found broadleaved trees and there are 4 commercial exotic conifers.

The idea of this booklet is for you to gradually build up knowledge of British trees. You will note that the correct conventions are used for plant naming, i.e. Capital letter for the generic name and small (lower case) letters for the specific name.

The trees in the Record book are listed in the following order:

  • Native trees (mainly deciduous)
  • Introduced or naturalised none native broadleaves
  • Commercial exotic conifers 

NATIVE TREES


Acer campestre  (Field Maple) Calcareous soils in southern UK

Country of Origin:  UK and Europe Ultimate height:  15m but usually as a  shrubby  bush less than 5m

Main Feature(s): Small shrubby tree often multi stemmed.  Typical maple and like a small sycamore.  An ancient woodland indicator species.

Description: Typical maple with leaves in pairs arranged opposite each other.  Leaves generally small (4-5cm) and tri lobed.  Bark pale brown with fine white vertical lines.  Shoots and buds much finer and smaller than sycamore but similar

Family:   Aceraceae


Alnus glutinosa   (Alder) Moist/water-logged sites

Country of Origin: Europe and UK 

Main Feature(s): The leaves will never come to a point, a slight indentation, but no point. 

Ultimate height:    25 metres

Description: The leaves alternate on the stem, they have deep veins on the leaves. The dark, leathery leaves can be up to 10cm, they can also have shallow random lobes. It can have catkins and fruit on up to 5cm long. 

Family:  Betulaceae


Betula pendula  (Silver Birch) Dry acid sites and cold exposed sites

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Asia Minor

Main Feature(s): It has a whitish bark, with thin roughly, woody twigs and the leaves alternate down these stems. The simple leaves are not lobed but intermediately, double toothed with a tapered point. They are hairless and hold quite a triangular shape. 

Ultimate height: 30 metres

Description: The twigs start to weep downwards, and the male flowers drop catkins of about 3cm long, whilst the female flowers are upright between 1.2 – 2 cm in height. The leaves are on average 4cm long and 2.5 in width, along the widest part. 

Family:  Betulaceae


Carpinus betulus   (Hornbeam) Calcareous soils

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Asia Minor

Main Feature(s): The leaves that are about 7cm in length have deep, parallel veins and are dark green in colouring. 

Ultimate height: 30 metres

Description: The leaves are very similar to the common beech leaves, this type is a simple, double toothed, linear leaf, often found in hedge rows. The width of these leaves is smaller than the length of the leaf. The trees are quite hardy and can grow in a variety of soils. 

Family:   Carpinaceae


Corylus avellana   (Hazel)

Country of Origin: Europe, UK, Scotland and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Edible cobs develop early spring from the fertilised female flower, which grow in groups of 2-4. The tree itself branches out from several stems which gives it more width than height. 

Ultimate height 10 metres

Description: A Hazel leaf has a simple, linear, double toothed leaf structure, which are hairy thus giving it a rough texture. They are a very roundish leaf which has an abrupt point and grow alternately on the stem.

Family:  Corylaceae


Crataegus monogyna    (Hawthorn) Red fruits and exposed inland or coastal sites

Country of Origin: Europe, UK, North West Africa and Western Asia.

Main Feature(s): The leaves are lobed and toothed in a random order and size, each leave looks different, but are all of a dark colouring 

Ultimate height: 10 metres

Description: It flowers late spring, and has red berries that grow in groups of about 4-6. The leaf is of a simple structure, it has a thorny, pinately lobed edge, with the widest part near the base. The leaves are very close together on the hard, woody stem. The leaves are of an average length of 4cm long and the widest part can be just as wide as long.

Family:  Rosaceae


Fagus sylvatica    (Beech)

Country of Origin: South and West Europe also UK.

Main Feature(s): To the touch this leaf is very smooth and silky, each of the leaves have a simple and very similar appearance.   

Ultimate height: 40 metres

Description: The leaf is a simple, un-lobed shiny dark green leaf. It is slightly toothed and of a roundish shape. It can grow up to 10cm long, thus being longer than wide. The widest part of the leaf is central, and the veins, which are quite deep, are paired. This tree is one of the UKs tallest broadleaves. 

Family:  Fagaceae


Fraxinus excelsior   (Common Ash) Calcareous soils

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): The black buds on Ash makes it easier to identify. 

Ultimate height: rarely up to 40 metres, but most commonly no more than 30 metres.

Description: The leaves are made up of between 9-13 leaflets. These stalkless leaflets are of a compound pinnate structure and are on opposite pairs on the leaf. They are intermediately toothed and always end in a point. The fruit, which grows to about 4cms, is single winged and of a brown/greenish colour, which hang in clusters on the branches. 

Family:  Oleaceae


Ilex aquifolium   (Holly) Dry shade and attractive fruits

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Ireland, West Asia.

Main Feature(s): This evergreen has very distinct, sharply toothed leaves accompanied by small, toxic red berries in the correct season. 

Ultimate height: 23 metres 

Description: The tree itself is often used in hedgerows, the leaf has a simple, dark green, spiny structure and grows closely together up the stem. Some varieties may be spineless, and the red berries are only on the female trees. 

Family:  Aquifoliaceae


Malus sylvestris   (Wild/Crab Apple) Attractive fruits

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): The bark on these trees are quite easy to identify and the leaves have a rough appearance and slight texture. 

Ultimate height: uncommon to see it around 17 metres, more commonly 10 to 15 meters

Description: This deciduous tree has a simple, roundish toothed leaf structure, which has a bud at the base of the stalk and edible fruits. The leaf has a paler underneath and has a length of 6cms. The fruits have a slightly pink underside and are quite hard and acidic. 

Family:  Rosaceae


Populus tremula   (Aspen) Well drained uplands and wetland fringes 

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): The leaves have flat stalks, and make a distinct sound as the wind passes between the leaves. The leaves start off a copper colour then soon become green and with that they lose the hair. 

Description: The leaf is a rounded compound leaf which has large curved teeth, it can be up to 7cm across.  They have a pointed tip, and quite faint veins and grow on a rough woody stem. It has 4cm long catkins that droop down and are of a purple colouring.

Family:  Pinaceae


Prunus avium   (Wild cherry) Fertile brown earths

Country of Origin: UK, Ireland

Ultimate height: 25 to 30 metres 

Description: They have 3cm wide, 5 petalled white flowers, which are borne in clusters. It is a simple, oval leaf structure with blunt irregular, intermediate teeth. The branches have nodules, and the flowers spring out from the base of the stem along with the alternate leaves. 

Family:  Pinaceae


Prunus padus   (Bird Cherry) Hedgerows and upland oak woods

Country of Origin: Scotland, Ireland and UK

Main Feature(s): The 8mm long fruit, are small black when ripe, have their own stalk and are very bitter. 

Ultimate height: 15 metres, but most commonly around 10 metres

Description: Matt, dark green, simple linear leaves, with small teeth. The leaves grow alternately on the stem, these leaves can grow up to 10cm in length. The bark is dull and rough to the touch.

Family:  Rosaceae


Pinus sylvestris   (Scots pine) Dry acid soils

Country of Origin: Native to British Isles, Scotland Evergreen, conifer 

Main Feature(s): Needles grow in pairs, they are no longer than 9cm. Oval shaped cones grow to 8cm with a whitish grey colouring to the scales. 

Ultimate height: 35 metres 

Description: The needle like leaves are stiff but wispy and sometimes have a silvery white tint and they are longer on younger trees. Lower branches on the tree die and fall over time. The female flower points upwards and has a yellowy orange colouring. 

Family:  Pinaceae


Quercus petrea   (Sessile Oak)

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Leaves are stalked and the acorns (fruit) are not stalked.

Ultimate height: seen at 42 metres before 

Description: The leaf stalks are about 1 – 2 cm long, and alternate up the stem. The leaves are of a simple, shallow, pinately lobed structure. There are 3 to 8 lobes on a leaf, age dependant. The buds are clustered together at the end of the stalk.

Family:  Fagaceae


Quercus robur    (Common Oak or Pedunculate Oak)

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Leaves are not stalked but the fruits are. The stalks for the acorns, of which grow in pairs, range around 5 – 12cms. 

Ultimate height: 38 metres

Description: The leaf structure is very similar to that of a sessile oak, as stated above. The leaves have irregular lobes but at the base it will always have a pair of small lobes. The widest part of this leaf is the centre lobes. 

Family:  Fagaceae


Sorbus aucuparia    (Mountain Ash or Rowan) Attractive fruits and dry, acid soils and exposed inland sites

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Rowan has a strong smell. The leaflets are dark green, tapered, stalkless, intermediately, deep toothed and normally about 15 to a leaf. 

Ultimate height: 25 metres 

Description: They have a cluster of pale whitish yellow, 5 petalled flowers and the red berries are up to 8mm round. The opposite leaflets on the leaf, and a single leaflet on the tip. These compound pinately leaflets are longer than wide and looks quite similar to the Sorbus domestica. 

Family:  Rosaceae


Taxus baccata   (Yew) Calcareous/alkaline sites

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Leaves are flat on the twig rather than all the way round (hedgehog like). Red outer berry with a greenish fruit inside. (poisonous)

Ultimate height: 20 metres

Description: This evergreen conifer has 30 x 3mm long linear leaves which end in a point. These leaves are dark on top but have a yellowish underside. The male flowers release a cloud of pollen early spring.  

Family:  Taxaceae


Tilia cordata  (Small-leaved Lime) Well drained brown earths

Country of Origin: UK

Main Feature(s): These long stalked leaves are hairless, but a little rust coloured tuffs can be found alongside the veins underneath. They have smaller linerar leaves bearing the smooth fruit. 

Ultimate height: 30 metres 

Description: This deciduous broadleaf has heart shaped leaves, these leaves are on average 3 to 8cm long. The leaves have regular intermediate teeth. The leaves are normally in clusters of 3 to 10. These heart shaped leaves end in an abrupt tapered point. 

Family:  Tiliaceae


Tilia platyphyllos  (Large-leaved Lime) Well drained brown earths – the south

Country of Origin: UK and Wales

Main Feature(s): Hair on stalks, leaf like bract and hairs on fruit. There are no fruits and leaves at the base of this tree.

Ultimate height: 40 metres

Description: Suckers are often found at the base of these whitish haired, heart shaped leaf. The alternate leaves are of a dark and dull colouring, they are about 10 to 15 cm long. Very similar to the small leaved lime, but this has larger leaves with whiter hairs.

Family:  Tiliaceae


Ulmus glabra  (Wych Elm)

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): This leave has deep veins and has a asymmetrical base. They are the only elms to have hairs on both sides of the leaf. They are well toothed and have a pointed tip. The leaf isn’t shiny. 

Ultimate height: 30 metres 

Description: This deciduous broadleaf has a simple, linear leaf structure and is of a dark green colouring. The shoots are dark grey and have hard ridges, and the buds are dark, almost purple and have hairs. The oval shaped leaf is about 10-16cm long and alternates up the twig. 

Family:  Ulmaceae


NATURALISED TREES


Acer pseudoplatanus (Sycamore) Polluted atmosphere and cold, exposed sites

Country of Origin: Europe

Main Feature(s): This tree has 5 lobed stalked leaves and is the only tree susceptible to the black spot disease. 

Ultimate height: 35 metres

Description:       It has a simple leaf structure and is deeply palmatley lobed, with small teeth along all the lobes. The size of a leaf is large and about 16 x 23 on young trees. They have a long stalk and it can be easily broken off the twig. They have winged “helicopter” seeds which wings fan in and then outwards at the two ends. 

Family:   Aceraceae


Castanea sativa    (Sweet or Spanish Chestnut) Dry, acid soils and frost free

Country of Origin: Europe

Main Feature(s): Long thin, toothed leathery leaf. The fruits, it can be up to 4cm in diameter holding 2 to 3 edible nuts. 

Ultimate height: up to 30 metres high

Description: This simple, narrow leaved tree has very distinguishable leaves. It has golden yellow flowers between the asymmetrical leaf pattern.  

Family:   Fagaceae


Salix x sepulcralis “Chrysocoma”        (Weeping Willow) Weeping habit (pendulous)

Country of Origin:

Main Feature(s): Leaves wisp downwards along the stem and are much longer than wide.  

Ultimate height: 25 metres 

Description: This deciduous tree has a simple, linear, minutely toothed leaf structure, of which are over 10cm in length. They grow alternately down the long stem. Their catkins are of a yellowish colouring and can grow to 7.5cms long. 

Family:  Salicaceae


Platanus x hispanica   (London Plane) Bold foliage and attractive bark

Country of Origin: S. France / Spain

Main Feature(s): Simple palmately, shiny, 5 lobed leaves grow alternately up the twig.  

Ultimate height: 35 metres  

Description: The leaves are quite thick and leathery, they are about 20cm long and wide, it does widely vary though. They are of a deep green colouring but paler underneath. They have long stalks and variable lobbing, but very defined. 

Family:  Platanaceae


Aesculus hippocastanum   (Horse Chestnut) Bold foliage and attractive fruits

Country of Origin: South East Europe

Main Feature(s): Compound palmately leaf structure with 5 or 7 stalkless leaflets. 

Ultimate height: 39 metres 

Description: This deciduous broadleaf tree has a jaggered double toothed edge. The leaflets  vary in length, with the shortest closest to the twig. In autumn they bear a spiny husk which holds 1 to 2 fruits inside, also known as conkers. The veins on the leaflets are quite bold and the leaf has a dry rustle to it.

Family: Hippocastanaceae


Larix Decidua    (Common Larch) Traditional European plantation species

Deciduous

Country of Origin: Europe 

Main Feature(s): The only deciduous conifer. Cones grow to 4cm long. The needle like leaves grow in bunches. They have two pale bands beneath. 

Ultimate height: to 45 metres

Description: The female flowers hang downwards and are cone-like but have a purple colouring. The short soft needles grow in rosettes. The cones are egg shape NOT barrel shaped. The leaves are less than 1mm wide and of a bright green colouring.

Family:  Cupressaceae


Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce) UK’s dominant plantation tree

Evergreen

Country of Origin: Alaska to N. California

Main Feature(s): It has dull blue-grey leaves with two pale lines underneath from tip to bottom. There is a peg left on the twig when a needle is pulled. 

Ultimate height: 60, sometimes 80 metres

Description: Narrow, flat like needles that are about 1 to 3 cms long. They are very prickly. Its flower, both male and female are quite large cone like flowers. They ripen from green to brown and are about 6 to 10cms in length. Hedgehog like leaf layout. 

Family:  Pinaceae


Picea abies (Norway spruce) Plantation tree in UK / dominant European conifer

Evergreen

Country of Origin: Europe and Russia

Main Feature(s): Drops its needles and used as a Christmas tree. It has needles of about 1 to 2 cms that grow evenly along the branch. Bright green needle colouring. 

Ultimate height: to 50 metres

Description: This tree has male and female flowers on the same tree. The female flowers produce pendulous greenish cones up to 15cm long. When needles are rubbed, it gives a Christmas rich smell, and also leaves a peg when pulled. 

Family:  Pinacea


Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir) Plantation tree in UK on brown earths

Evergreen

Country of Origin: Western North America

Main Feature(s): The cones have a feathery 3 pointed bract down the middle. The female flowers are tassel like and are borne at the end of stems.  

Ultimate height: up to 62 metres

Description: The needles twist in all directions and are long, flat, narrow and are about 3cm long. They have a sucker like base. Buds at the end of most stems, and the needles have a deep bottom vein and either side it is paler. 

Family:  Pinaceae


Family and the outdoors

You are never alone.

Family is a word which derives from the latin familia, meaning servant, to serve. I am lucky enough to have a big family and we have been together during lockdown, including our four legged family members. We look after each other, make sure each member of the familia is safe. Which made me think about those during this last year who are alone.

Loneliness can make your body feel cold, it can suppress your immune system putting you more at risk of disease. However, I found that the great outdoors can help combat it, Doctors are prescribing time in green spaces, it can improve mental and physical health. I always feel more proactive after going for a walk, hugging a tree and just sitting in the local woodlands listening to the sounds of the woodpeckers, robins and great tits as they sing above my head.

Even if you can’t be together with all family members, for whatever reason, know that they are there with you in mind, spirit and soul.