Lord and Lady Cavendish talk to Keith Richardson about the great Holker Hall lime tree.
What strikes you first about the Holker lime is its stature. It is designated one of The Tree Council’s 50 Great British Trees in recognition of its place in the National Heritage and in 1992 (which was presumably the date after which the only tape measure in Christendom was lost as no measurements of the tree have been taken since) it was 22m (that’s 72 feet for the metrically-challenged) and its wonderfully wide fluted trunk was 25ft. The tree, considered to be 400 years old, is most certainly magnificent and I imagine that it looks even more splendid in the spring when wild garlic grows around its roots. Immediately where branches first emanate from the trunk there is a tremendous tangled thicket and jungle of smaller branches and leaves, so much so that it would deter even the most determined of tree climbers.
The tree certainly holds a special place in the affections of Lady Cavendish,
“It is a very, very magnificent tree, a very special tree, wonderfully ancient and very animate,” she told me. “I think old trees have tremendously interesting characters. They all have different qualities. Some have a lovely atmosphere about them, some cast beautiful shadows and some are curiosities. The lime is very beautiful and is the most wonderful sanctuary for wildlife because it’s so very very dense. I think it’s lovely that it’s stood for 400 years just watching all the changes. It’s a very venerable tree and by that I mean it’s the sort of tree that you feel quite humble in front of. It’s also a very welcoming tree in a funny sort of way because it has this tremendous, sinuous-like neck and you can hide there. It’s wonderful for children. It has a magic. It’s lovely in the summer when it’s hot outside. It’s always cool and you can shelter in the winter when it’s raining. I love it in the autumn and the winter. The lime is also a lovely tree to think of when I am away from home.” Are you ever tempted to climbs trees? I ask. “Some of them, yes,” she replies. “But not the lime tree. It is somehow a sacred tree and you feel that you would be intruding. But there is a lovely yew tree which is great fun for climbing with its twisty branches.” Lord Cavendish adds: “There is wild garlic under the lime in the early spring and at this time of year the ground around it is always well trodden. There’s an orgy of wildlife with birds and rabbits."