I was pleased to report recently that Liverpool – my ‘home’ hunting patch of L – has now reached 100 monkey puzzle trees, and is the first postcode area to do so. I’m even more delighted to have three new additions, found this morning in Ormskirk – L101, L102, L103 – all spotted when I wasn’t even on ‘official’ monkey hunting duty. The first one as I turned the car round to find the address I was looking for, the second visible from the road where I had an appointment, and when I drove round later to get a better view of it I passed a third one. Sometimes it goes like that. And so now L stands proudly top of the league at 103.
But we’re not getting overly smug here – not that this is a competition you understand! We have some very active hunting going on which gives the top four as:
L at 103, SY at 92, CH at 81, and HR at 73.
I’ll come back to SY and HR, but first Agent Philip has been doing excellent work with the CH catalogue, last reported as 64 monkeys. I then found the ‘Thurstaston pair’ making 66 (two lovely monkeys indeed which Philip described as ‘GRAND’), and now with Philip’s latest finds the catalogue is at a very impressive 81. See his finds at Spital Road CH67, Allport Road CH68, Eastham Woods CH69-CH71, Eastham CH72, Dibbinsdale CH73, Heswall CH74 (with his co-hunter Lindsey featured on the photo) and CH75, Tarvin Road CH76, Caldy and West Kirby CH77, CH78, CH79, and Heswall CH80. And I’ve spotted another in Christleton CH81.
And Agent Philip is also getting the monkey hunting bug out to others, and through Twitter we’ve now started the CB catalogue – thanks to both Chris and Nicola Houghton Camps for CB1, CB2 and CB3 in Newmarket. And also through Twitter Philip spotted Louise Baldock and her team out canvassing and posing with a lovely monkey in Thornaby, a first for TS, so that’s TS1. Good work Philip! Louise also has at least another two to send in as well.
Over in another part of the country Agent Simon has been busy. You may recall Simon discovered an amazing find of 60 monkeys in one day – yes a record – at the Leighton estate, which included an avenue, rather neglected, of 39 trees. Simon continues to bring clutches of trees from his walking and cycling around the area. Simon had recently found a clutch in WV, and has now found 15 trees in the Walsall area, which is another new postcode area. Interestingly there is an aboretum at Walsall (the green pin on the map below), a high Victorian park which has lots of specimen conifers, but no monkey puzzle trees.
Simon has memories of visiting the ‘Walsall Illuminations’ at Walsall Arboretum in the early 1980s. This was an attraction that ran from 1951 (as a contribution to the Festival of Britain), and kept on as a low cost alternative to going to Blackpool. I had never heard of them. Although this has nothing to do with monkey puzzle trees, I find it really interesting that this ‘hunting’ and looking that we do as we see places with our ‘monkey eyes’ brings back memories and also gives a new appreciation of the places we might consider familiar.
Of the WS monkeys, Simon tells me that WS1, WS2, WS3 and WS4 are in Cannock, a former mining town on the edge of Cannock Chase AONB. They are in older parts of the town centre including a Victorian town park which as been recently restored. WS5 and WS6 are in Cheslyn Hay, another form mining village. Six trees are grouped in Bloxwich, and trees WS13, WS14 and WS15 are scattered in older parts of Walsall. Of particular interest to Simon was the trees in Bloxwich he called ‘the monkey mile’, WS7, WS8, WS9, WS10, WS11 and WS12.
As you can see there are six trees all along the same road. We’ve seen this elsewhere, and Simon reflected that maybe there is an element of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ that explains this cluster of monkeys in private front gardens. Yes, I think that’s possible, but also really a genuine admiration of someone else’s ‘unusual’ tree and one being planted in response to that.
Thanks to Simon the SY catalogue is in the top four, but I’ve recently been able to add to the numbers. I’ve spent the last week having a break near Shobdon in Herefordshire, and spent some time walking some of the Mortimer Trail – which is in Shropshire. I love this part of the country, where you find yourself in and out of Wales and England, crossing the border and also in and out of postcodes too. A great week with Ronnie and Bren spent having some much needed rest for me – and which also involved 19 monkey puzzle trees. Driving through CH we passed CH5 and CH14 (a monster which I’d not seen myself), but also near CH5 I spotted two juvenile trees in Christleton. I could only find one on Google, that’s CH81. Into the next postcode area and spotted two in Upper Battlefield SY83 and SY84. I was sure there was one in Dorrington, north of Ludlow, but can’t find it on Google, and similarly in Pipe Ashton, south of Ludlow, at the edge of the Mortimer Forest I noted a sighting, but was unable to find it on Google. (Yes, I know, stopping the car and taking a photograph is the best way but it’s not always possible and getting to our holiday destination was the aim!)
One day we had a great walk on the Shobdon loop of the Mortimer Trail – a walk claiming to be a mere 5.5 miles but felt more like 15 miles by the time the hills, many stiles and much mud had been taken into consideration! This walk started in Shobdon village – with a sighting of a monkey HR73, and it was with much pleasure that it was spotted again some five hours later as we ended our walk – and me and Bren pointed at the tree with great joy using our walking sticks!
In Ludlow, a detour to find a petrol station (described by a local as ‘Harry Tuffnels’ but which was a Co-op), caused a sighting just off Sheet Road SY85. Driving back to Liverpool I was sure I spotted two young monkeys on the B4355 coming into Knighton – they have alluded me on Google. But the SY sightings improved with two in Bishop’s Castle SY86 and SY87, and a most pleasant afternoon spent there especially finding the shopkeepers to be very friendly – Rosie’s secondhand emporium and Pugh’s butcher in particular. Further sightings at Church Stoke SY88, Four Crosses SY89 (on Domgay Road but visible from the A483), Llanymynech SY90, and two in Pant SY91 and SY92. So, in all, 19 sightings, two already in the catalogue and five I couldn’t find on Google, but 12 new finds and 10 in SY. So a great holiday in an area of the country I delightfully referred to as ‘The Ladybird Book of England’! (See Ronnie’s post here).
Back at ‘monkey central’ I’ve also been working on something very exciting for the last few weeks (in my spare time). It’s a Google map, and every monkey puzzle tree is mapped on it. This means that you can see an overview of the whole of Britain and all the monkey puzzle trees that have been catalogued. I’m also included monkey puzzle trees that have died or been felled.
As the catalogue now contains over 1,000 trees – yes, that many – the task of creating this map was not inconsiderable. I would like to thank Agent Simon for very kindly offering his technical support and helping create a layered map which I am using for the catalogue. Simon very kindly recognised that although the number of monkey puzzle sightings may well have increased – which is great – there is still only one of me doing the cataloguing in my spare time (a very precious commodity). So thank you Simon.
We’ve created the Google map – something I am immensely proud of and can often be found happily gazing at it! Monkeys are mapped as red dots, if the location is not exact they dot is orange, if the monkey has died or been felled it is grey. The white squares mark postcode areas where there are no monkeys catalogued (yet).
The link to the map is here, and you can view any part of the map to see the monkey puzzle trees there and a photograph. Please note, the map is not quite complete – as there are trees in LS, NE YO and TN which need to be added (although their numbers are included in the current count).
So – I will leave you with 1,005 monkey puzzle trees in the UK to peruse. If you know of any monkeys for the catalogue, please let me know. It’s only taken just over a year to get to here, and I’m delighted. Thank you everyone for your enthusiasm, joy and sharing of monkey puzzle trees everywhere.
And remember – keep your eyes peeled!