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Saving the Historic Trees at Caversham Court

June 2020

The Caversham Court estate in Caversham and on the banks of the River Thames, dates from the 12th century when land from Caversham Manor was gifted to the monks of Notley Abbey for the building of a church and rectory.  Early on, the rectory was used by lay people and the gardens laid out to suit the needs of the families who lived there.  In the 1930s the house was demolished and the site became a public garden under Reading Borough (RBC).  This garden contains a number of fine specimen trees. 

The most notable of these are the limes, a black mulberry, the yews, a Japanese pagoda tree, the veteran copper beech, a Bhutan pine, and many others.  A wonderful walk through the trees at Caversham Court has been produced by the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens.

Bhutan Pine.jpg

(c) Fiona Shaw

We can all help to look after these trees.

The survival of these trees, even in a protected environment such as Caversham Court, a Grade II Registered Historic Park and Garden in Reading, cannot be guaranteed. The Bhutan pine (probably planted in the mid 19th century) is a case in point.  The tree has been showing signs of decline and has suffered from erosion, heavy footfall and root compaction. This year the Tree Officer recommended felling this ailing tree.  Keen to try and extend the life of the pine, the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens offered to fence off, water and mulch the tree themselves.

Advice was obtained from a number of experts including RBC, Richard Bisgrove, Dr Michael Keith-Lucas and Members of the Berkshire Gardens Trust with a general agreement that the tree was worth trying to save; remedial measures were needed urgently; and that a Conservation Management Plan would greatly assist for the future survival of these trees in the gardens generally. The Friends have also successfully gained the support of two key Reading Borough councillors, Richard Davies (Ward Councilor and Chair of Housing, Neighbourhoods & Leisure Committee) and Karen Rowland (Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation). 

We hope that there is a happy ending: and not only that the life of the historic Bhutan pine can be extended but also that the other valuable trees at Caversham Court are appreciated and cared for. Reading Borough is very keen to green up the Borough, retain its existing trees and plant many new ones, as you can see in the Draft Reading Tree Strategy (currently out to consultation). The trees in Caversham Court Gardens are greatly appreciated by the general public and lovers of historic gardens alike.  The trees help to make this a great place for local families. We appreciate that public safety is paramount but our mature trees can be cared for and protected for future enjoyment.  Do support the efforts of the Friends of Caversham Court Gardens


Bettina Kirkham

Chair Berkshire Gardens Trust

With thanks to the Friends of Caversham Court, and their Chair Vickie Abel, and for their kind help and permission to publish this article. 

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