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Beeches, in memoriam

May 16, 2012

My father-in-law was a great tree planter. When we first moved here to take over the running of the estate from him, we used to joke that he, like Nature, abhorred a vacuum: wherever there was a space, he had stuck in another tree. Many of the saplings he planted are now reaching maturity, such as the avenue of beeches which he planted to celebrate the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. (It’s quite a thought that we are now in the position of being able to plant trees for the Diamond Jubilee this year.)

The Silver Jubliee Terrace of beeches in their autumn colours.

It is ancient conifers which predominate, however, in the policies (grounds) of this castle. These overgrown Christmas trees can be hard to tell apart and, as a young bride, I was keen to learn. My father-in-law was not the easiest teacher. When asked to identify a tree, he would inevitably give the botanically correct Latin binomial, rather than the name by which most people knew it.

‘What’s this one?’ I’d ask.

‘Well, that’s a Picea sitchensis, obviously,’ he’d reply, leaving me none the wiser. (It’s a Sitka spruce, I now know. At least, I think I do.)

Of all the trees he taught me, my favourite mouthful of arborial syllables has to be Metasequoia glyptostroboides. But it has taken years of patient reminders from my husband for me to learn that this name refers to those nice pointy Dawn redwoods beside the drive. My father-in-law’s knowledge of his beloved trees was immense, and we are enjoying following in his footsteps, scampering to catch up.

Conifers notwithstanding, it was beeches that were his favourite trees. Oak is the symbol of our clan and we have many fine old oak trees here, but you can’t beat the beauty of a beechwood. At this time of year, the fresh green of the young beech leaves filters sunlight through to the bluebells lapping at the feet of the smooth grey tree trunks. In the autumn, the beechwoods bring a blaze of red-gold to the darkening landscape. Beech have become my favourite trees too, and I am so grateful to my father-in-law for the trees that he has planted which we and our children now enjoy.

My father-in-law died peacefully last weekend. In the middle of the family’s ups and downs of grief, and all the business of arranging his funeral here in our family chapel this weekend, what a blessing it is to be able to walk in the woods every day, and to remember him with gratitude and love.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2012 11:56 am

    Your father-in-law has grown his own memorial, but your post is a lovely tribute.
    Sympathies and good wishes to you all.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 16, 2012 12:16 pm

      Thank you, what a delightful comment.

  2. hmunro permalink
    May 16, 2012 12:23 pm

    What a beautiful legacy your father-in-law has left — both in the small forest that he planted over the years, and in the life he helped make possible for you and your family by bequeathing that small forest and its estate. My thoughts are with you, Mr. Beastie, and the boys. xo

  3. May 16, 2012 2:45 pm

    What a beautiful and appropriate tribute to your father-in-law.

  4. May 16, 2012 3:56 pm

    A lovely and totally fitting tribute to a man who has left his corner of the earth more beautiful than when he entered it, DB. What better way to remember him than to walk in the woodland he planted. My sympathies to you all.

  5. May 16, 2012 6:37 pm

    How wonderful to leave one’s space full of trees. Obviously a man to be loved and missed.

  6. May 16, 2012 7:34 pm

    My sympathies to you and your family. How lovely to be remembered in trees.

  7. May 16, 2012 9:40 pm

    I read the announcement and have been thinking of you and family.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 16, 2012 11:32 pm

      Thank you all for such kind comments. They are very comforting and much appreciated.

  8. Margaret Lambert permalink
    May 17, 2012 2:16 pm

    My deep sympathy to you and your family. Perhaps there is something of us that lives as long as the best of what we leave behind as a legacy. The trees, and all the generations of family that will follow, extend your father-in-law’s life far beyond his years.

  9. May 23, 2012 3:28 pm

    My condolences on the loss of your Father in Law. All the woodland is a wonderful legacy.

  10. May 23, 2012 5:02 pm

    My condolences on your and your family’s loss.
    A beautiful post and a beautiful tribute.

  11. Erika W. permalink
    May 23, 2012 7:25 pm

    With many good wishes to you and your family in a sad time.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      May 24, 2012 11:35 pm

      Thank you, each of you, for taking the trouble to write these kind and comforting comments. I love the idea that he has grown his own legacy for us.

  12. May 25, 2012 8:50 am

    I’m sorry that I am late in adding my condolences here for the loss of your father in law – he has clearly left a space in your lives that will now be filled, over time, with memories.
    As others have said, he left a beautiful legacy in the arboretum that he planted, which you are now continuing in the planting of the Diamond Jubilee trees.In your wisdom, you are going into nature to find peace in your time of grief.
    And so it goes…and so it goes on…
    I send my love to you and your family, May the memories comfort you in all your days of story-telling to come. xxx

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      June 7, 2012 6:18 pm

      Thank you, Roz. It’s kind of you to write such lovely and truthful words.

  13. June 5, 2012 3:25 pm

    (Regret this is so late – I’m catching up on my reading today). Your father-in-law must have been a joy to know. Maybe there is something about that generation – my dad, too, seem to plant trees where ever there was a vacant spot- and said all those scientific names that who could remember!
    He left such a legacy – no doubt he was pleased it would be placed in good hands. Walking those woods has special meaning.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      June 7, 2012 6:22 pm

      How lovely that your dad had similar arboreal tendencies! You are so right, our woods are full of family memories and meaning. My father-in-law was a wonderful character.


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