I was asked recently how you achieve Agent status. Well, as this is my blog and my project, I make up the rules as I go along, and so there is no formal route to becoming an Agent.
As a bit of a joke I first introduced the concept of ‘Agent’ to someone who was ‘hunting’ for monkey puzzle trees ‘in the field’, as it were. As in the way of jokes, it stuck, and so ‘Agent’ became a formal title, only awarded by me, for those ‘dedicated to the task of hunting monkey puzzle trees.’ There is no specific number of trees you need to find to be awarded ‘Agent’, and the title can only be given by me… but it’s for people who show continued commitment to the Monkey Map catalogue. The work has no pay, it can be dangerous at times, and you are expected to ‘keep your eyes peeled’, and carry a camera at all times. The reward is your entry in the Monkey Map.
I am delighted, and continually surprised, by the dedication shown by an increasing number of Agents, and the finds that continue to come my way. Agent John in Fife is one such Agent. Indeed, if John gets the merest whiff of a monkey puzzle tree, and especially so if it’s trees (plural), then he’s off at the next available opportunity. Seriously, if I could provide travel expenses John could claim mileage for his efforts! Good work.
Agent John in Fife has seriously put Scotland on the map with his efforts, but not content with that he has recently done some coast to coast hunting which has produced a staggering number of finds – 351 trees.
This was sparked when John spotted a reference to monkey puzzle trees along the A1 in Northumbria near Haggerston. This was the home of Christopher Leyland, who moved here in 1889 – his article is here – which says, ‘He planted thousands of trees, including monkey puzzles, and many still grow in nearby Kyloe Woods.’
I’ve featured Christopher Leyland here before on the post about the Leighton estate, where Agent Simon found the largest haul of monkey puzzle trees in one place – at the time (December 2014). This included an avenue of 39 trees, rather overgrown in places. You can see the post here, and photos of all the trees in the avenue here. This also started my fascination with monkey puzzle avenues, and those at Hafodonus, which I have now visited – you see them here.
Leyland, or Naylor as he was known then, lived with his family at Leighton Hall. In 1891 he inherited an estate at Haggerston Castle from his uncle, Thomas Leyland, and was obliged to change his name to Leyland (interesting changing of surname for a man, rather than the commonly made change for a woman after marriage). Here he began to re-build the mansion and improve the estate. Features included a menagerie of exotic animals, a palm house, walled gardens, observatory, arboretum and Italianate pleasure gardens.
Of course, Christopher Leyland is probably most famous for the creation of the much hated leylandii. From Parks and Gardens UK:
The leylandii for which Leyland is known were not really noted during his lifetime. In 1888, Leyland had noted seedlings of Nootka cypress which had accidentally been cross-pollinated from a nearby Monterey cypress. The leylandii gained Royal Horticultural Society awards in 1941 and 1969, but have since proved controversial.
Well, the ‘thousands’ of trees up at Kyloe have been explored by our intrepid Agent John in Fife. He said his first alert to this area in a cycling blog. The cyclist referred to it as Fenwick Wood, and John’s research then found reference to Mr Leyland having planted up East Kyloe Wood with MPTs.
Imagine the delight of any monkey puzzle hunter viewing this! John enters the wood….
The First Part of The Wood – John says this area was a typical mixed coniferous woodland with commercial forestry operations in evidence. Well typical wood apart from having a substantial amount of MPTs dotted about the place!
In total, John counted 142 trees. With 42 for this first part of the wood. And a further 100 in the rest of the wood.
The wood comes to an abrupt end at a cliff edge. John very correctly thought this might be some of The Whin Sill, which is a rocky outcrop that runs through County Durham and Northumberland.
Finding himself facing the vertical cliff, John asks some horse riders how to get up to the forest, and is directed ‘up the groove’.
And from here there are views out into the sea and across to Lindisfarne.
This is where the wood is located, just a stones throw from Lindisfarne,
The castle on Lindisfarne is visible here:
I had actually visited I here in 2014… if only I had known! (My walking holiday there is here, it is a magical part of the country). This was my introduction to The Whin Sill.
In addition to the finds at Kyloe Woods, John also located 13 Trees along the N1 cycle route.
Of his finds, John says:
This wood wasn’t visible on Street View, so that was my reason for investigating this further. I thought I might find about 10 trees in total. Instead I got up to 142 in the woods, plus these 13. As well as another 8 along the route I took through Fife and the borders to get there. 163 in a day…not bad going.
No, not bad going at all John! Now that’s what I call an Agent.
This is John’s route through the woods:
So, for any of you out there aspiring to rise to the coveted status of Agent, please don’t feel you have to be as diligent and tenacious as Agent John in Fife, but I do appreciate the dedication to duty. John’s decided to specialise in ‘clumps’ and enjoys tracking down trees in large numbers. Your contribution can be finding just one or two trees. Either way you are all helping with the task of cataloguing all known monkey puzzle trees and creating this Monkey Map. And for that I thank you.
Please also note that as I receive a lot of trees to catalogue, I now prefer to receive them through the submissions form which you can find here. Thank you.
Last word to John, rather tongue in cheek, as we all know that of course this is not a competition, even if John is behaving as though it is!
I think I am enjoying the mischievousness of this Agent rôle, knowing that your folder for me is getting bigger and knowing I have out-monkeyed anyone by a country mile….