Tree Places

Ancient Sweet Chestnuts of Sicily
Location: Sant’ Alfio, Sicily
Jill, Ted and their friends, Graham Bathe and Gerard Pasola, were invited by the Mayor of St’Alfio, Sicily (in the striped shirt on the left) to visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage tree named ‘Castagno dei Cento Cavalli’ (the ‘100 Horse Chestnut’). The legend says that in times past a Queen and her courtiers were caught out by a storm and all 100 of them took shelter under the crown of this tree. Now in four main parts (are these genetically the same and if so are they the result of the trunk growing out and separating into functional units or developing from layered branches while the centre has decayed away) – the overall size of the tree is breathtaking. Both this tree and the other – ‘Castagno della Nave’ (the Ship Chestnut), are threatened by the various diseases affecting sweet chestnuts across Europe but the little municipality is doing what it can to look after them as well as they can.

Both trees feature in Julian Hight’s book: World Tree Story – History and Legends of the world’s ancient trees. Now available in paperback only from: www.worldtreestory.co.uk

The Beeches of Senegrière
Location: Southern France
High in the Cévennes mountain range, surrounded by a modern ski resort and beech plantation forestry, stands a remarkable grove of veteran beech pollards. Outstanding remnants, characteristic of the region’s ancient custom of cyclical pollarding, the trees provided a sustainable source of firewood and livestock fodder, creating a magical wood in the process.
Old Growth Beech Forest
Location: Southern France
This pocket handkerchief ‘refugia’ of old beech trees has been saved by its proximity to an old Abbey. By French forestry standards these beech trees are very big and some have veteran characteristics, although in the UK they might not stand out as particularly significant. The interesting point is that these beech trees are so close to the Mediterranean – although very high on the limestone mountains north of Nice. It was before we knew about the beech trees in Sicily and were looking for examples of the most southerly beech forests in Europe with old trees.