A Saumarez Park Tree Walk
Japanese style 'pavilion', Saumarez Park.
This walk is indexed separately from my other walks, since the emphasis is not on the walking, but on the trees. For this reason I have not given an estimated time, as it is totally open ended. A map of the walk is here.
Saumarez Park possesses the finest single collection of trees in Guernsey. Many of these date back to the time when the Park was owned by the de Saumarez family, although many others are more recent. The fourth Lord de Saumarez (died 1937) was in the diplomatic service. As a result of his service with the embassy in Tokyo he introduced a significant Japanese element into the plants and structures in Saumarez Park. After his death Saumarez Park was acquired by the States of Guernsey, and over the years pressure of usage and other factors have taken their toll. However vestiges of the Japanese influence can still be seen.
Two articles entitled 'Saumarez Park' by Rosemary de Sausmarez and 'A Little Japan in Guernsey' by the Hon Marion Saumarez and J E Moullin can be obtained at a nominal cost from The Guernsey Society (Winter 1967 articles).
In these short notes, only a few of the many trees in the Park can be mentioned. You will see many more trees, plants and shrubs than these. However I hope these notes will provide a framework by mentioning some of the more interesting trees - as well as a few that are more common. The research for this page was kindly performed by my wife, who also took the photographs. Thanks are also due to other local people who provided assistance. However, should you find any errors or have any interesting omissions, please let us know via the comments page.
The walk starts from the north car park in Saumarez Lane, since that is the gate at which my walks R15 and W2 arrive. The numbers attached to the tree names refer to their locations on this map.
Take the tarmac path that leaves the car park at left past the information board. Half a dozen paces after this board, just after the gentle bend and on the right of the path, is a Field Maple (Acer campestre) - 1. Usually seen growing only in hedgerows in the chalky soils of the southern half of England, the Field Maple is often cut back to form a trim hedge, or is used for topiary work. The decorative 'bird's eye maple' used for furniture veneers and wall panelling comes from this tree, and its wood has also been used for making domestic utensils such as drinking bowls. However all the maples produce useful wood, and in general Field Maples of timber producing size have largely disappeared. Maple wood is also used for forming the backs, sides and necks of violins.
Almost immediately this path joins another tarmac path which circles around part of the Park. On your right at this junction is a small specimen of Dawn Redwood.
Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) - 2
This species was only known to exist in fossils until it was found still living in China in 1941. It has bright green foliage in spring, turning to a salmony to brick-red colour in the autumn. Buds, that are often in clusters, grow from under the branchlets.
The large cypress behind the Dawn Redwood is a Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) - 3. The palm tree is a Cabbage Palm (Cordyline australis). There are several of both of these trees in the Park.
Japanese Black Pine (centre right) with Corsican
Pines (centre left).
Turn left along the tarmac path with a small group of sycamores on your right, then on the right of the path, next to a Holm Oak (Quercus ilex), you reach a Japanese Black Pine (Pinus thunbergii) - 4. This is the pine which is so characteristic of Japanese paintings. Opposite, on the left of the path, is a Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata) - 4a. About fifty metres on, again on the right, is a second Japanese Black Pine, which has divided (or been divided) quite close to the ground into two then three, main trunks. This is the one in the adjacent photograph. Opposite this one, to the left of the path are some Corsican Pines (Pinus nigra var. maritima) - 4b.
The wooden bridge near the north side of the path leads to the area where the Japanese house used to stand.
Continue along the tarmac path to the left of the pond and the little Japanese style pavilion, passing several clumps of bamboos. The building in the trees over the grass on the right is the Hostel of St John, formerly the de Saumarez residence, now an old peoples' home.
Just before reaching a main Park gate, turn right past another information board. Pass another Monterey Pine, then over on your right is an Acacia and just beyond it three Swamp Cypresses - 5.
Swamp or Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) - 5
Closely related to the Dawn Redwood, except that the Dawn Redwood has opposite leaves and leaflets, while the Swamp Cypress has spirally arranged leaves and leaflets. The Swamp Cypress is late to come into leaf, bright green in June and with spectacular autumn colour. The wood resists damp and insects and does not shrink. It develops 'breathing knees' (pneumatophores) which are spongy filled roots that rise above waterlogged ground to help provide oxygen to the root system.
New Zealand Holly.
Continue along the path besides the children's playground. The specimen of New Zealand Holly (Olearia paniculata var 'Akiraho') - 6 adjacent to the "Tree of knowledge", is listed in "Champion Trees of Britain and Ireland" (Whittet Books) as being one of the largest in Britain - though of course it's not large as trees in general grow.
Continue past the "Tree of knowledge", the trunk remains of a Turkey Oak, but as the path bends left keep straight ahead across the grass, then as you approach the road leading from the main gate to the Hostel, a Tasmanian Blue Gum can be found.
Tasmanian Blue Gum.
Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus) - 7
This Eucalyptus tree has slightly spiralled bark that strips to leave smooth, pastel coloured, bald areas. The wood of Eucalyptus trees is under tension to give added strength, but the wood may split when felled, or explode from this inner tension and the vaporisation of the essential oils when a tree burns. Eucalyptus trees draw water from deep down and are fire adapted. Their seeds are released in vast numbers from their wooden cases after being cooked by fire, and they then germinate quickly in the ash-rich soil without any competitors. The trees have buds beneath the bark and may have buried swellings on the lower trunk, with buds and supplies (lignotubers), which grow after the main trunk has been destroyed. Eucalyptus trees may also develop symbiotic associations with fungi which greatly extend the range and absorptive power of their roots.
Turn right to follow the fence of the playground past the east car park. After the fence turns to the right again, the tree just inside the playground itself is a Large Leaved Lime (Tilia platyphyllos) - 8.
Walk across the top of the car park towards the front of the St John Hostel. As you leave the car park there is a fine specimen of an Irish Yew on your left.
Irish Yew - (Taxus baccata fastigiata) - 9
Yew trees are renowned for their longevity (the Fortingall Yew in Perthshire is thought to be 5,000 years old). The names for the Yew have been traced back in several languages to the sacred word for Jehovah, the Immortal.
On your right, just beyond the information boards is an English or Persian Walnut (Juglans regia) - 10, in a bed surrounded by camellias, box and hydrangeas.
Walk back around to the front of the Hostel. The three fountains were put in by James de Saumarez (4th Baron) to remind him of the time when he was posted to the British Embassy in Paris. These replaced the one long pool shown on the Duke of Richmond's Guernsey map of 1787.
Turkey Oak and St John Hostel.
On the right of the front lawn as you look from the house, are some fine specimens of Turkey oaks (Quercus cerris) - 11. Turkey oaks have 'mossy' acorn cups which do not have a stalk.
Walk along the front of the Hostel and along a gravel path past some palm trees, where there is a Chilean Myrtle.
Chilean Myrtle (Myrtis luma) - 12
This specimen may well be the largest in the British Isles. Myrtles have nitrogen fixing bacteria (Frankia) in root nodules and so can grow on poor ground. Myrtle leaves smell sweet and spicy when crushed.
On your left is an Evergreen Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) - 13. This has fine large flowers in summer.
This path continues along the Bamboo Walk - 14. The original Bamboo collection was sent over from Japan during James de Saumarez' time at the Embassy, though this was substantially renewed in 1993/94. It includes specimens of the Tortoiseshell (Phillostachys pubescens 'Heterocycla') and Black (Phyllostachys nigra) bamboos.
Turn left up the four steps. Immediately above these steps is a Himalayan Cedar.
Sweet Gum, with Atlas Cedar behind.
Deodar or Himalayan Cedar (Cedrus deodara) - 15
The branches 'descend' or droop (whereas the Cedar of Lebanon has Level branches).
The leading shoot droops to protect the shoot as it is pushed up through a tree canopy. This tree has been worshipped on the Indian sub-continent, 'deodar' meaning 'divine wood' in Sanskrit. The inner wood is aromatic and used to make incense, or distilled into an essential oil which is used as an insect repellent and also has anti-fungal properties.
At the top of the four steps turn left along the path back towards the line of Turkey oaks. Pass on your right a Douglas Fir (Pseudotuga menziesii - 16. Just behind it is a Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) - 16, then an Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica) - 16 with its upright cones.
Between the Douglas Fir and the line of Turkey Oaks you can find a young (just over 25 years old) Coast Redwood.
Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) - 17
The redwood was named Sequoia ('dignified') after a native American tribal Chief.
The tallest Redwoods (over 100 metres) in the world today are the Coast Redwoods which grow in the 'fog belt' of coastal California. They grow faster than any conifer on earth, can live to be 2,200 years old, and the current tallest is 115.5 metres (379.1 ft). Redwoods have red, spongy bark at the base of the trunk, which gets waterlogged and has proved to be very fire resistant. The bark and wood are rich in tannins which help give protection against pests. The wood is also acid resistant and so has been used to make vats. Coastal Redwoods can also re-root themselves if they become silted up after floods. Cones release their seeds after being cooked by forest fires.
Head back across the grass towards the semi-circular formal rose garden guarded by the pairs of Japanese dragons and dogs, and with the rose beds surrounded by low hedges of Box (Buxus sempervirens). Box is seldom seen in the wild today in the UK, except in a few areas such as Box Hill, but still grows profusely in many parts of France, as those who have walked the French countryside will be aware. From the rose garden there is a further view of the Deodar Cedar (15).
Distant view of Monkey Puzzle and Deodar Cedar (with Cabbage Palm in front) seen across the formal garden.
There are several more Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) around the patch of grass ahead and on the left - 18.
To the left of the pair of dogs is a small Monkey Puzzle (Araucaria araucana) - 19. The Monkey Puzzle in fact existed around 120 million years before the evolution of monkeys. Some have speculated that its spiky leaves may have evolved to deter plant eating dinosaurs!
Leaving the semi-circular garden along the path with the Monkey Puzzle on your right, you pass (in the 'V' between two paths and in front of three Monterey Cypresses) a Nymans Hybrid Euchryphia (Euchryphia x nymansensis) - 20. This has delightful white flowers round about late September through to November. It is noteworthy how some of the branches have fused and parted and then rejoined.
Continue around to the right as far as the entrance to the walled garden. This is currently being restored as a Victorian vegetable garden circa 1875 to 1905.
Opposite the walled garden entrance is a Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) - 21, which bears fragrant, long, drooping flower spikes on red stalks in June.
A little further on, on the same lawn, is a young Maidenhair Tree. There is a fine mature specimen of the Maidenhair Tree growing in Candie Gardens (in the lower gardens near the northwest 'Vauxlaurens' entrance).
Maidenhair Tree (Gingko biloba) - 22
The Gingko biloba is the only surviving species of a family of plants that is remote from all other trees and plants. Fossils of this species have been found from 260 million years ago.
Just beyond the Gingko is a young Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum) - 23, which in May bears pea-like rosy-pink flowers growing from shoots, branches and the tree bole itself. The fruits are flat purple pods which last into winter. It has red buds on winter twigs.
Turn right by the sign board towards the tea room and public toilets. With the toilets on your right, you are facing a Fern-leaved or Cut-leaved Beech (Fagus sylvatica Asplenifolia) - 24. Then turn left to arrive at the entrance of the Folk Museum.
Camellia near the north car park after a rare snow fall (unknown variety).
Camellias in the Park
Just inside and to the left of the Folk Museum courtyard is a specimen of a sport of Tricolor, Camellia japonica 'Lady de Saumarez' - 25. This sport was found by Lady de Saumarez and it was named after her. Many camellias can be found all over Saumarez Park which produce fine and varied blooms in the early months of the year. Camellias, pines and bamboos were all sent by Lord de Saumarez from Japan to Saumarez Park. Japanese gardeners skilled in root pruning were brought to Guernsey, as well as a Japanese carpenter to help with rebuilding a Japanese Temple that was shipped to Guernsey.
Turn right now, heading northwards along a tarmac path through a pair of wooden gates. Just before the gates, on the right, a bit back from the path, is a fine specimen of English Oak (Quercus robur) - 26.
Just beyond the gates on the right is a grassy mound where the Japanese temple once stood. Continue along the tarmac path between two further large Monterey Pines (Pinus radiata>) - 27. On reaching a grassy area, pass underneath an Italian Alder.
Italian Alder (Alnus cordata) - 28
The Italian Alder has dark shining pear-like foliage. In spring the large golden male catkins shed much pollen before the leaves come out. Alder wood is durable and almost indestructible under water due to preservative chemicals such as tannins. Venice is said to be built on piles of alder wood, maybe of the Italian Alder. Alders, as a family, have nitrogen fixing bacteria (Frankia) in their root nodules and so grow well in poor soil and in waterlogged soil. Alders easily form polyploid hybrids - having more than two sets of chromosomes. Alders can also concentrate minerals - including gold - from the soil. The oldest alder fossils are from 18 million years ago
Evergreen Cork Oak.
Just beyond this, on the right of the path is a Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) - 29, which was planted in 1980. This has buds which become scarlet in April and unfold to one metre long ash-like leaves in mid-June. On the left of the path, beyond a beech tree, is a Narrow- Leaved Ash (Fraxinus angustifolia) - 30. In the centre of the grassy patch on the right is a London Plane Tree (Platanus x hispanica) - 31.
Beyond the Plane Tree on the left, are a couple of very mature specimens of Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) - 32. Near the end of the railings, on the edge of the path leading up to the Temple mound, is an Evergreen Cork oak (Quercus suber) - 33.
Indian Horse Chestnut.
On the other side of the end of the railings is a Roble Southern beech (Northofagus obliqua) - 34. This tree originates from the Southern Hemisphere. It looks like a beech tree with very thin twigs, but with rough bark on the trunk and much smaller beech nuts or mast. Beyond this, half right and back towards the English Oak (26) are several specimens of Indian Horse Chestnut (Aesculus indica) - 35. Near the path alongside the Hostel and towards the tea room is another specimen of Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) - 36.
Head back north along the tarmac path, turning left at the corner of the Hostel with the Walnut Tree (10) on your right. Pass two further Indian Horse Chestnuts, then a beech tree and the Sweet Chestnuts (32) on your left.
Purple Norway Maple.
After you pass a little grassy triangle at a junction of paths, you find some young specimens of (in order) on the left, a 'Resistant' Elm (Ulmus 'lobel') - 37 and a another Walnut - 37. A few years back, virtually all the Elms in Guernsey were destroyed by Dutch Elm Disease, although there are signs around the island now of some new growth developing. The particular Elm we see here was bred to be resistant to the disease and is clearly flourishing at present.
Next along (on the right) is a Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), purple variety - 38. Next on the left is a Purple Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus 'Atropurpureum') - 39. Then on the right is a Golden Ash (Fraxinus excelsior var. jaspidea) - 40, which has yellowish branches with chocolate buds, and clear yellow leaves in spring and autumn.
Next on the left is a Variegated Maple - 41, then on the right another specimen of Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua) - 42.
Turn left onto the grass along the line of stone pillars. Just after the line of pillars bends to the left there are two specimens of Flowering Ash on the right.
Manna or Flowering Ash (Fraxinus ornus) - 43
This tree has creamy white flowers in dense heads in May and June. In Sicily it is cultivated for the sweet gum it exudes.
Continue along the line of stones. A little before reaching the Italian Alder (number 28 that we have already seen) there is a White Poplar.
White Poplar (Populus alba) - 44
The catkins of this tree are borne on downy white twigs. The upper silver bark has small black diamond-shaped pores. The white dense hair on the underside of the leaves protect the breathing pores from being clogged with fume particles or salt.
This completes our tree walk. It just remains now to head northwards back to the north car park or, if you are in the middle of walk W2, to head back south between the Tea Rooms and Folk Museum to find your exit gate.
(Revised November 2012)