Park & Garden

As already noted on the Home page, David Whitehead (A survey of Historic Parks & Gardens in Herefordshire, Hereford and Worcester Gardens Trust, 2001, page 240) says that Pevsner “should also have added that [Langstone's] setting is of a complementary quality, as precious as the house itself and more vulnerable”.i   According to Herefordshire Through Time, a park was first shown on maps in the late 19th century, when it was a modest, crescent shape in front of the house.ii

The park, the meadows on the other side of the Garren brook and the garden contain many veteran and notable trees, native and exotic, as well as interesting younger specimens. Five are Herefordshire County Champions in The Tree Register http://www.treeregister.org/ (you need to be a member of The Tree Register to see the detail), including the sequoiadendron giganteum (Wellingtonia) in front of the house, a height champion at 41m; cedrus atlantica Glauca Group (blue Atlas cedar), fagus sylvatica pendula (weeping beech) and quercus suber (cork oak), also in front of the house, which are all girth champions; and a taxus baccata (yew), in a copse between the Homme and Little Homme meadows, which is listed as remarkable.

These and another 32 veteran or notable trees are listed in the Woodland Trust's Ancient Tree Inventory, recorded by Brian Jones on 15 August 2016. They include the black mulberry, likely to have been planted when the front of the house was built in about 1700, and a perry tree, both in the shrub garden; another Wellingtonia in the Little Homme; seven pedunculate oaks and eight common limes in the park and further meadows; a ginkgo and a tulip tree; ash, holly, red horse chestnut, hybrid black poplar, Austrian pine; a coast redwood planted by Colin Jones in the 1950s; and three poplars I planted in the mid-1990s (tree numbers 155464-6). For a full list of the trees, see here. For the Woodland Trust's map see here.

It is clear there was much planting of non-native species in the 19th century and earlier. Colin Jones planted many more trees in the 1950s, often in pairs of Scots pine and larch, but also including Wellingtonias and coast redwoods (sequoia sempervirens). I understand someone told him he was going to end up with a forest, not a park. My father gave me a similar warning when I was planting more trees in the 1990s. Strangely Colin never planted any limes, despite the fact they grow so well here. One near the top of the park, which fell with a rumble like thunder early on 29 January 2016, narrowly missing the overhead electric line and transformer pole on one side and my 1996 weeping beech on the other, measured about 29m.

Many elms were lost to Dutch elm disease in the 1970s. The beeches seem to be particularly susceptible to bracket fungus: one magnificent copper beech between the house and the brook is listed in the Ancient Tree Inventory (155456) despite being dead for several years; and Hilda's beech beside the front drive (155444), named after a relative, is soft enough a metal rod could be pushed into it in about 2010. A number of mature oaks as well as alder, standing beside the Garren brook, have also been lost when the banks were softened during flooding, which varies greatly from year to year.

My planting includes two more Wellingtonias at the top of the Homme and Little Homme meadows, a Japanese cedar (cryptomeria japonica) in the park, three dawn redwoods (metasequoia glyptostroboides), two swamp cypresses (taxodium distichum) and interesting varieties of pines, firs and spruce as well as limes, willows and poplars.

In 1994 my father wanted to plant a special tree to mark the bicentenary of the Revd Thomas Jones' purchase of Langstone. My sister had recently given him a monkey puzzle (araucaria araucana). As children we had always been intrigued by a money puzzle growing on the bank opposite the bathroom window at my mother's parents' home, Halkyn Castle in Flintshire, north Wales. The monkey puzzle was introduced to the UK from Chile in 1794 and so it became the commemorative tree. We planted it on the bank at the top of the drive on the north-east side of the house, after making space by removing the nearer of two sycamores growing too close together, where it is growing extremely well.

There is a public footpath through the park, across the Garren over the Engine Bridge and through the Little Homme meadow, giving visibility to many of the trees. Visitors to the garden on Quiet Garden days (see here) are also welcome to wander more widely in the park if they wish.

The footpath goes past a crenellated stone folly in the park, probably late 19th century. There is some conjecture it might have been built as a viewing platform to watch the hunt go byiii but it seems odd to have put it on such low-lying land, close to the brook. It is much more likely to have been built as a shelter for stock or as a deer shelter.iv

The ponds on either side of the brook near the Engine Bridge are said to date from the 18th century. v

A 1759 survey shows that the walled garden on the south-west side of the house used to have formal beds. It's mentioned in a list of surviving walled gardens in Herefordshire published in 2009.vi My uncle Colin sometimes penned his Herefordshire cattle there and so the ground was well manured. My father and I planned and planted the existing shrub garden in memory of my mother, who died in September 1986, in 1987-88.

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i      Whitehead, D., Patton, J. ed., A survey of Historic Parks & Gardens in Herefordshire, Hereford and Worcester Gardens Trust, 2001, page 240  (return to text)
ii     Herefordshire Through Time, Monuments Search, SMR 31705: https://htt.herefordshire.gov.uk/her-search/monuments-search/search/monument?smr_no=31705&s=Start+search  (return to text)
iii     Mowl, T. and Bradney, J., Historic Gardens of Herefordshire, Redcliffe Press, Bristol, 2012, page 76 (return to text)
iv     Brooks, A. and Pevsner, N., The Buildings of England: Herefordshire, Yale University Press, New Haven and London, 2012, page 481  (return to text)
v      https://htt.herefordshire.gov.uk/her-search/monuments-search/search/results?parish=LLANGARRON&period=18th%20Century&site_type=POND   (return to text)
vi     Grant, F. & Patton, J. ed., The Walled Gardens of Herefordshire, Logaston Press, 2009, page 82  (return to text)