A wrong turn from the M5 yesterday put me in striking distance of Tortworth, in South Gloucestershire, so instead of turning round imediately I thought I'd A) get a baguette from the excellent Tortworth Estate Farm Shop, and B) take the opportunity to visit the Tortworth Chestnut.
Whatever its age and current shape, it is evident that this is an important and much-loved tree. A plaque, now mounted on a gate to the enclosure, reads:
This tree supposed to be Six hundred years old, 1st January 1800
May Man still Guard thy Venerable Form,
From the Rude Blasts and Tempestuous Storm.
Still mayest thou Flourish through Succeeding time
And Last, Long Last, the Wonder of the Clime.
More prosaic is a plaque announcing its selection as one of fifty Great British Trees in 2002, selected by the Tree Council to commemorate the Queen's Golden Jubilee. The Tortworth Estate has numerous fine trees, the legacy of the third Earl of Ducie, who was a great dendrologist in his day and developed a fine arboretum at Tortworth Court, though he is perhaps most famous for having discovered the Corkscrew Hazel, Corylus avellana 'Contorta' in a hedge on the estate.