In 2009, the discovery of the great spruce bark beetle (Dendroctonus micans) started a significant period of change for the lower woodland walk and the start of an exciting new and long term project.
The female beetle lays eggs in the tree in brood chambers under the bark. The eggs hatch and the larvae then feed on the bark, usually ending in the tree eventually dying due to ring barking.
In 2010 the forestry commission released a predator to the beetle called Rhizophagus grandis; since then loss of the sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) has slowed to about three trees a year from about 50 when it was first discovered.
The lower woodland walk, incidentally, is not just an attractive walk but it plays an important part in the overall aesthetic of the whole garden.
A plan has been devised to replace the sitka spruce with five other tree species that are not susceptible to the beetle and all have amazing presence.
The first two species to be planted are going to be Sequoiadendron giganteum and Sequoia sempervirens. These have all been raised in our own nursery from seed collected in the wild to give diversity to the planting, and they will be planted in individual 40m (131ft) pockets that have been cleared of the dead spruce.
The planting is being done in phases so that the backdrop to the garden is interrupted as little as possible. Watch this space for further lower woodland walk developments.
Read some timely advice on careful selection and planting of specimen trees.