Dunorlan Park is an extremely important tree resource in Tunbridge Wells, with many wonderful trees still surviving from the original plantings laid out in the 1860s by one of the most famous landscape gardeners of the 19th Century, Robert Marnock. The overall landscaping themes of the park have been adhered to in the renovation of the park in the 1990s and recent tree plantings. The trees provide very significant eco-benefits in Tunbridge Wells such as carbon dioxide uptake and oxygen release, pollution trapping, biodiversity, flood mitigation and huge leisure and health benefits to the residents and visitors to the town.
The Friends of Dunorlan Park were kind enough to invite us to lead a Tree Walk in the park, to look at the history, features and ecology of some of the many spectacular trees in the park.
Just by the Pembury Road gate is a striking Hornbeam with wonderful low branches ideal for climbing on. There are literally thousands of native trees in the park, which provide excellent resources for the abundant insects, birds and bats that depend upon them.
Just close by is a statuesque tall English Oak, and some excellent golden Lawson’s Cypress, forming a lovely entrance.
Only a little further on is the iconic sweeping line of Deodar Cedars about 160 years old along the old house driveway. These trees are from the foothills of the Himalaya and can achieve a height of 60 m. in good growing conditions of their homeland.
A large weeping Spruce a few metres away is the rarely planted Morinda Spruce, which can grow side by side with the Deodars in forests from Afghanistan to Nepal. This tree is large but still might be a more recent planting than the Deodars?
As we approached the terrace we came across the first of two unusual Incense Cedars. This tree comes from the Western coasts of North America. Its wood is used to make pencils as the wood does not splinter in pencil sharpeners! The leaves however smell of boot polish. As we crossed the terrace, we looked down on the veteran Yew that is so popular with children.
We moved on to the Greek Temple – and there was a (County Champion) Greek Fir just over the hedge, now on private land adjacent to the park! As we looked down the slope we were looking down the new Deodar Cypress avenue that was planted in the 1990s with substantial young trees that required heavy support, and some early replacement planting. When you look at the picture you can see that cypress trees on the right hand side are going to be easily dominated by the boundary trees. This will have an impact on the long term viability of the cypresses on that side at least, and the balance of the avenue.
We walked back above the lake to part of the wonderful collection of oaks, limes and purple beeches that form the core of the surviving plantings from the 1860s – truly spectacular trees.
We finished our walk by checking out the amazing Indian Bean Tree in the Chairman’s garden before calling in at the park café for a much-needed cold drink or ice-cream!
David Carey, Volunteer Tree Warden for Hadlow Parish.