We’ve put forward St Julian’s Well tree in Ludlow for a national award

Update 4 September 2016

Alas, our bid has not been shortlisted by the Woodland Trust. That’s a shame becasue this is such a fine tree.

Main article 5 August 2016

Every year, the Woodland Trust runs the Tree of the Year competition. Rather at the last moment, we councillors decided to put forward the horse chestnut at St Julian’s Well as a candidate. The tree itself is striking and its symbiotic association with the medieval well makes it very unusual.

Among our aims in entering the competition are to publicise the tree and its friendship with the ancient well. We talk to a lot of people who don’t realise that St Julian’s is the well that supplied Ludlow. Some don’t even know the well is a well.

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If the tree is shortlisted and we gain 1,000 votes, then we get a £500 “Tree LC” pamper package. The main prize is a £1,000 package.

We recognise that we need to work harder at ensuring the long term future of St Julian’s Well. We started that process last May but action stalled because we didn’t have a scheme that suited the setting of a heritage asset. Nominating the tree has helped focus our minds. We will be talking to highways engineers and heritage experts in the coming months to ensure that the well is protected. We need to look at the tree too. I am not a tree expert but its leaves are beginning to shows signs of disease. We’ll get tree people in to give advice.

20150609_Meeting_St_Julians_Well_cropped_Tracey Huffer inspecting St Julian’s Well with engineers and heritage officers

One idea we have for the prize money, should the tree win, is to produce a ‘notable trees of Ludlow’ leaflet. We’ll let you know how we get on.

Extract from our application to the Woodland Trust

We are nominating this tree, a horse chestnut (aesculus hippocastanum), for its beauty and its association with a medieval well.

The tree stands more than more than 100 feet tall in the middle of a suburban street, Livesey Road. It is growing on a traffic island created when the road was laid out after the Second World War. The road was split to go either side of the tree and its partner, St Julian’s Well. This holy well was once within the medieval Augustinian Friary precinct. It also fed the White Conduit in Ludlow town centre and was for centuries a key part of Ludlow’s water supply.

The tree and the well are inseparable. The roots have grown into the well and the swelling girth of the tree is at least partly responsible for the well cover sagging. It is probable that the gentle twist and lean of the horse chestnut result from subsidence as the weight of the tree has compressed the well cavity.

The tree is probably at maximum height and spread now. In the autumn, the tree supplies conkers for children who live in the nearby Sandpits areas.

The well cover has sunk over the years. One of us remembers sitting on it as a child, something we discourage now. We are concerned about the integrity of the cover and we are working with council officers and Historic England to ensure its future. Whatever we do to prevent the wellhead collapsing, our much loved tree will remain. The well and tree are in a symbiotic relationship that we have no intention of ending.

We do not know whether the tree was planted or was a self-seeded plant. It intrigues us that the only other significant horse chestnut in Ludlow, a tree of comparable size, stands on the site of a former Augustinian friary on Galdeford.

People drive and walk past our tree and well every day without understanding the relationship between the tree and the well. We want to change that and tell people about the tree and the ancient well it lives with.

We want to promote understanding of the tree and its historic context. We are initially looking at two options. An interpretation board would be ideal but we would need to be satisfied about road safety issues. The second plan would be produce a guide to “notable trees of Ludlow”. This would be written with local tree experts and in conjunction with Ludlow Museum at the Buttercross, which has just opened.

Andy Boddington, Tracey Huffer and Vivienne Parry. Shropshire unitary councillors for Ludlow.