More monkeys in gardens than wild

We will be returning to the rest of ‘Matthew’s monkeys‘ but in the meantime I have various monkeys that have been added to the catalogue over the last few weeks. And although I started this collection because I love monkey puzzle trees, I’ve also been thinking about the important role gardeners play by having endangered* plants growing in their gardens.

(*In the wild the monkey puzzle tree’s conservation status is endangered – facing a high risk of extinction in the near future.)

On the Forestry Commission website there is an article about tree collections at Westonbirt National Arboretum and Kent’s Bedgebury National Pinetum, and how important they are. I also found the following information and the amazing fact that: ‘Today more monkey puzzle trees can be found in British gardens than in the wild.’

[At Bedgebury] exceptionally rare trees rub shoulders with old, familiar favourites: at present Bedgebury is growing and researching conifers ranging from the Chinese evergreen Cathaya argyrophylla, endangered in the wild and almost unknown in British gardens, to the whimsical, instantly recognizable monkey puzzle tree, Araucaria araucana. The ubiquitous monkey puzzle might seem an odd target for conservation, but in its native habitat of Chile and Argentina populations of this eccentric conifer have been destroyed by grazing, land clearing and fire. Today more monkey puzzle trees can be found in British gardens than in the wild.

And so, here are some more of those monkeys in British gardens.

Agent Simon in the Shropshire area sent me another clutch from cycling in the SY postcode area. You may recall he sent us some lovely WV monkeys which got the catalogue to over 500 – you can see those here. The SY collection is doing really well:

SY1-17 monkeys

Agent Simon’s first monkey was in Montford Bridge – SY5 – and now the collection in SY is up to 17, thanks to his latest 12 additions. This is the SY overview, as you can see most monkeys are in the Shrewsbury town area:

14.12 SY map

And here is the Shrewsbury town map:

14.12 Shrewsbury town map

Simon tells me that SY10 is in an area of Shrewsbury that has strong connections to the WW1 poet Wilfred Owen. This tree is within a few hundred years of where the Owen family lived, including the house where his mother received the news of his death. The inset map is taken from the Shropshire Walking tours website – you can find that here. And Simon also tells me that the monkey on SY15 on Lyth Hill Road is for sale – a house is included!

Once I put Simon’s finds onto the map I was amazed at the area he’d covered – on a bike (although Simon very self-effacingly told me this was over two days). This is his route:

14.12 Shrewsbury Simon route

From SY7, Simon went across to Pentre (which isn’t on this map) and then collected the rest of the monkeys. Good work Agent Simon! And by a very rough estimate it looks like Simon covered about 30 km on his bike (around 18 miles), which is proof of the commitment of a good monkey agent! Thanks Simon.

Erstwhile monkey hunter Agent Jeff continues to be in regular touch with his latest finds as well. From Llangollen Jeff reports seeing someone photographing the canal path, using a tripod. In conversation he discovered that this photographer actually photographs the leaves on the path and then processes them… interesting! Jeff sent me a photo of the path, and I have processed it:

LL5 canal path

Anyway, this act of stopping – as so often happens – means that we look, and in the looking, Jeff’s wife found LL5, a lovely little tree on the canal bank.

Whilst in the area, Jeff also went to Erdigg, near Wrexham. This is an 18th century country house with formal garden and landscape park – it was on my radar also as I had read they had an avenue of monkey puzzle trees. It is also home to a National Plant Collection of Hedera (ivy). Jeff spotted this monster – LL6 – in the avenue on arrival and found another small one – LL7.


So, just two monkeys at Erdigg, but possibly more? So, if you know any different, let us know.

Jeff went on to find five more monkeys on his Llangollen trip, and I was particularly taken by this one – LL12 – just south of Llanwrst:

LL12, Y Bryn, Betws Road, LLanrwst

LL12, Y Bryn, Betws Road, LLanrwst

And also this one, LL11, which looks really exotic in the rural location… will look great when it’s grown up.

LL11 with location

And here’s the locations of all the LL monkeys – including LL3 and LL4 which are from Matthew’s collection:

LL map

You can see Jeff’s other finds on the catalogue – LL8, LL9 and LL10, LL12, LL13, LL14, and LL1 and LL2 in Newborough found by me last summer.

Other finds from Jeff:

LS30 in Tadcaster from a friend of Agent Jeff’s daughter, and our first in HG, in Harrogate – HG1. And a lovely tree LD4 in Brecon outside a (very aptly named) pub called ‘The Puzzle Tree’. WN6 near Wigan, spotted on a motorbike ride video and sought out on Google. Other Google finds up in Grimsby DN4 (Jeff went on to spot DN5 from the A1M whilst driving back from the North East), some finds in Renfrewshire G1 (yes another new postcode area), and PA2 and PA3. A friend on holiday sent Jeff a photo from Pembrokeshire, which is SA8 outside the Taberna Inn, a very nice looking place to stay. Another new postcode area from Felixstowe IP1, and Lincoln LN3. Whilst up in the North East Jeff bravely explored a private estate – well we all know how dangerous suburbia can be – and found NE28, and from Google NE29, adding to our other monkey in Cramlington NE25.

Driving back Jeff spotted several from the A1, the above DN5, in Catterick DL3, and finally a diversion near home due to an accident (diversions often very useful for monkey hunters) meant spotting another for the HR collection – even though it was getting dark, but Agent Jeff is never one to put off catching a monkey –  bringing the collection there up to HR70. And a final monkey near Blackburn – WN7.

Which leaves us with 678 monkeys in the catalogue. Good work everyone. Thanks everyone for your dedication and commitment to monkey hunting and for keeping your eyes peeled.


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