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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

A couple of weeks ago I shared the sad news that the ancient looking horse chestnut on Green Lanes, opposite Falkland Road, was to be cut down. I wondered aloud about its age.

Yesterday it met its maker. Before it went completely, I'd arranged with the very helpful Haringey trees team to collect a slice of the tree for dating.  My notions of daintily counting tree rings proved to be unrealistic. As you can see from the photo, the chainsaw marks rendered them invisible. A neighbour said to me that you could get a pretty good idea of a tree's age through measurements. The wisdom of the web seemed to agree.

To take full account of a tree's age, apparently, you're supposed to measure the girth of a standing specimen at chest-height. Since the stump was still above head height when I collected my slice, it was certainly higher than that, which means it would tend to underestimate the full age of the tree. The girth of the slice I got was 120 inches. Using two different web calculators, which both allow for species differences, i was given an age of 305 years. Whilst it's wise to treat that age with caution, the arboriculturist who was supervising the felling on Green Lanes told me he thought the tree was well over 200 years old. So, it sounds about right.

300 years, give or take, puts the tree as having been a seedling in around 1720. So, it seems like it was, as I'd suspected an old field boundary tree, planted less than 200 years after the species was first introduced to Britain. 1720 was the year before Robert Walpole became the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. It was a half century before the American Revolution. It was seventy years before the old Queen's Head was first established as an old coaching inn. The tree, let's make no bones about it, was a very old one.

The tree's offspring, or sibling is still standing, a little further north, also in front of Mountview Court. It too is of a venerable age, especially for this part of London. Next time I pass by, I'll doff my cap and wonder how big it was the year Victoria ascended to the throne.

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So it stood there for over 300 years and what was the reason it was cut down?

From the two patches of dark straining visible in the photo the heartwood was rotting so it was in danger of toppling  or limbs snapping ie it was becoming dangerous.

  • I saw it a few days ago, too; what a terribly destructive act.

Horse chestnut trees are not terribly long-lived trees. They last about 300 years so it appears to have been able to live out its full life. Logs and wood removed will continue to be a home for many species but the tree itself was at the end of its days. We can be thankful and grateful that it stood giving shade and a refuge for so long in Harringay. Let us hope it had many offspring. As Hugh points out, it most certainly has one standing nearby.

No doubt. And not only nearby. I find squirrel_buried seedlings in plant pots and flower beds in my garden every year, even in troughs 20 feet above ground level. The nearest chestnut is a good 75 metres away! 

What a wonder!

Good to know it. Thank you, Liz!0

This is obviously sad to see such an old tree fall, but seems like it lived it's life. Thanks Hugh for the information and background rather than just that a tree has gone. 

Hopefully the council found a use for all that wood. Chestnut isn't cheap to buy!

Well covered Hugh, hopefully that old tree will have been recorded in photos down the years so it's memory remains to an extent.   I would've passed it by a multitude of times in my younger years in Harringay but probably, sadly hardly have given it a thought.  If only I knew then what I know (and value) now........... !  I often think "if only trees could talk ".



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