Sit and remember
IN January 1919, two oak trees were planted at Kew’s Royal Botanic Gardens from acorns collected at the Battle of Verdun (February–december 1916), one of the longest and most costly clashes in human history. Casualties are estimated at more than 700,000 and among them were a number of Kew staff.
From their sunny position beside the Chinese lions and the lake, near the war memorial in the Temple of Arethusa, no other tree could compete with these mighty sessile oaks, but in 2013, St Jude’s storm severely damaged one. A year later, it had to be felled, but it is now reborn as a thoughtfully crafted solid-oak bench—itself an invitation to reflect—which will be unveiled on December 19 to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle’s close.
The trunk has been ‘quarter sawn’ by Helmdon Sawmills, Northamptonshire, into an inverted-triangle or ‘V’ shape, revealing unique medullar rays in the wood grain (above). Another, also to be crafted by Gaze Burvill, Hampshire, from the unblemished boards cut from the same trunk will be ready in time for the centenary of the end of the First World War in November 2018.
As the world’s leading seed bank and botanical-science centre, it should also be no surprise to learn that Kew’s experts took a cutting from the fallen Verdun oak, which will be planted out in 2018, to remind us all that, after loss, renewal and hope must follow.
Pro-fracking, pro-brexit Times columnist Matt Ridley spoke of how ‘the countryside must be weaned off subsidies’ and how our farming footprint is shrinking and that this could be a good thing, as the industry becomes more high-tech. He believes that connectivity is key, stating that ‘there should be nothing to stop a person in a cottage in Wales from running a London corporation, while supporting his local shop’. He cited Oneweb’s 900 satellites, Google’s balloon and Facebook’s drone as viable solutions for the future.
Landowning rural businesses contribute £229 billion to the economy in England, with farming the primary income source for 52%. However, as CLA president Ross Murray pointed out, ‘no business can be complacent’. Visit www.cla.org.uk to download the report.
Broadband in the countryside is key