Sit and re­mem­ber

Country Life Every Week - - Town & Country -

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 to down­load the re­port.

Broad­band in the coun­try­side is key

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