I was delighted to receive in the post recently my own copy of ‘103 Monkey Puzzle Trees of Kent’ by Bridgette Ashton. This is a book containing, well, 103 images of monkey puzzle trees – all in the county of Kent. It is produced as a limited edition of 103 books, mine is number 58. The description:
Bridgette Ashton’s photo book, 103 Monkey Puzzle Trees of Kent, presents 103 specimens growing in mostly domestic gardens in the Garden of England. The images were collected and collated over two years with the help of the public. Participants responded to posters, tweets and call outs by emailing images, addresses or map references.
So, much like my own ‘Monkey Map’ Bridgette has put together a collection of images with the help of others. Her project is now archived, and she has very kindly given permission for me to feature the finds from this collection on my own collection here. I have recently started putting individual photographs/images of all the catalogued monkeys on a pictorial catalogue – here – which is searchable by postcode reference, or by ‘Agent’ – i.e. the name of the person who sent the monkey image to me. Back to ‘The Kent Collection’. I am not familiar with Kent. And why would I be? As someone who has lived most of my life in the North West of England, and mostly in Liverpool, my UK travels generally take me westward – locally to Cumbria and North Wales and Anglesey – all reachable within a day (the smaller circle on the map). But Kent is a long way from Liverpool – in fact, Kent (in red below, and the distance of the larger circle on the map) is as far from Liverpool as Mull in the Hebrides, or Cornwall. So from my point of view, discovering Kent is like discovering a whole new landscape. Going through the place names on the list of monkeys in the back of the book (which are arranged alphabetically), some of them are familiar even if they’re not places I’ve visited – Cantebury, Dover, Margate; but others sound like a different world – Ide Hill, Seasalter, Plaxtol, Beckenham, and, my favourite: Snodland, which sounds like somewhere in The Phantom Tollbooth. Faced with 103 monkeys to catalogue, I immediately turn to my trusted system – postcodes. And the county of Kent actually covers five postcode areas. The largest postcode area by far is TN (Tonbridge), and most of Bridgette’s collection of monkeys are in this area. But CT (Canterbury) and ME (Rochester, but obviously named after Medway) also have sizeable collections. The final two small areas are DA (Dartford) and BR (Bromley), both now part of London but historically part of the parish of Kent. So I’ve decided to start my cataloguing of ‘Artist Ashton’s monkeys’ with DA, with just four monkey puzzle trees. (I will refer to these 103 monkeys on the catalogue as from ‘Artist Ashton’, as Bridgette is not technically an ‘Agent’ as such). The four DA monkeys are now on the pictorial catalogue – here – you can find them if you search under the label ‘DA’. The first three in Bexley are your ‘typical’ monkey puzzle trees, i.e. front or back garden specimens. However, interestingly DA4 is in Shorne Woods, and is a tiny little baby monkey: So, I don’t know how this little monkey got to be there. Shorne Wood Country Park was once part of a large estate, which was passed to the council and opened to the public in 1987. It has large areas of ancient woodland and heathland meadows…. and now a baby monkey, and I hope it does well.