A very impressive monkey hunting has been made by Agent Simon in postcode area SY. I am delighted to report his findings. Simon has found – in one location – the largest haul of monkeys. Good work.
Of course, we’ve had some other good monkey hunting done – for example Agent Gemma found a whole clutch in Leeds, a municipal planting of 25 monkeys in one location. Agent Jeff also found more trees in Allerton Cemetery which made 13 in total, and he also found eight at Speke Hall, and he also hunted the lovely collection of 13 at Highnam in Gloucestershire. Agent Simon has also reported a lovely line of nine trees at Himley Hall. But he has surpassed himself this time!
Simon told me he had been planning to explore the Leighton Estate for a long time. It’s to the east of Welshpool. The estate is privately owned. The estate is notable for the Hall, and also Home Farm. It contains a huge number of interesting conifers, including a coast redwood with a fallen trunk which has sprouted into a row of trees.
During the 1850s when the estate was owned by the Naylor/Leyland family, the gardens were created by Edward Kemp – a pupil of Joseph Paxton – and a pinetum was made and also much use was made of the Victorian favourite, the monkey puzzle tree. It was here on the Leighton Estate is also the birthplace of the much hated Leylandii was created:
Kemp in his garden layout had placed two disparate Pacific coast North American species of conifers in close proximity to each other: Monterey Cypress, Cupressus macrocarpa from California and Nootka Cypress Cupressus nootkatensis. The two parent species would never have met in the wild as their natural ranges are thousands of miles apart, but in 1888 the hybrid cross occurred when the female flowers or cones of Nootka Cypress were fertilised by pollen from Monterey Cypress, to create the first Cupressocyparis leylandii.
The farm on the estate is a pioneering example of Victorian farming technology, and there are also a number of estate buildings – including this absolutely quirky poultry house, which John Naylor built in 1861 for his daughter’s collection of ornamental fowl. Another example of excessive wealth!
Simon tells me that although the estate is private, the long distance path of Offa’s Dyke runs through some of the most interesting conifer woodland and he has read of mentions of monkey puzzle trees. So off he went for a look. He’s found 53 trees around Offa’s Dyke, and a further 7 in Leighton and Welshpool. The most remarkable of his finds is an avenue of 39 monkey puzzle trees, in an avenue running along Offa’s Dyke.
Simon has very carefully photographed each individual tree for the catalogue. As he says, ‘In a bit of a state, but more or less complete as a regularly spaced avenue of trees.’ Simon has mapped his finds here:
So, as you can see it’s an astonishing collection of monkeys. It also brings the SY catalogue up to 78… and, as Simon says, ‘Shrewsbury is throwing down the gauntlet to its traditional rival Hereford!’ We like a bit of healthy competition! For the record, HR catalogue is at 70, and the L catalogue at 91.
Simon also found a lovely named ‘Monkey Puzzle Tea Room’ in Welshpool, but no monkeys nearby – although I would imagine the ones in the vicinity that Simon found are enough to give the café its name.
I’m currently cataloguing all of Simon’s monkeys so you will be able to find them all on the interactive catalogue. They are all ‘SY’, as shown on the map above. And here’s some of my favourites of ‘Simon’s monkeys’:
SY29 is at Offa’s Pool, which Simon tells me is a retaining wall for the pool which is now empty – it was built as part of a grand Victorian scheme to provide hydro-electric power to the Leighton Estate. Also it was interesting that SY23 was the only juvenile monkey Simon found – a great collection of mature monkeys in Leighton and around.
And here’s some trees in the avenue of 39:
As you can see from this selection of trees, the avenue is fairly neglected and the trees are crowded out. Simon spotted that tree SY44 has the orange alga Trentepohlia growing on the trunk, and it’s the first time he’s seen it on a monkey puzzle – detail of SY44 also pictured above.
So, a good day for Agent Simon overall and a frisson of competitiveness between SY and HR! Good work.