At the start of the year, we spent a weekend in Herefordshire not far from the pretty town of Ludlow. The OS map of the area was on the book shelf in the cabin where we were staying and I enjoyed opening it out and searching for a route we could walk the following day. Literature left in the cabin for guests recommended National Trust-owned Croft Castle just a few miles away. The managed estate has right to roam access and the icons on the OS map idicated there would be lots to see along the way.
We followed public footpaths that took us close to the border of the National Trust managed estate then we walked through, what at first appeared to be, a small area of gnarly sweet chestnuts. After some reassurance from other passing walkers, we jumped the gate and made our way through the wood. The map showed what looked like an old track leading from the wood towards the castle. When we reached it, we were overwhelmed by the size and beauty of the tens of twisted trees that lined each side of the grassy track.
Known as the ‘Avenue of Spanish Chestnuts’ is said to have been planted from the nuts aboard the wrecks of the Spanish Armada in 1592, making the trees some 400 years old. We didn;t know this at the time we discovered the trees and we spent the length of the avenue pondering their purpose. We expected the trees to lead up to the castle, but surprisingly, they ended at a large hollow in the landscape.
Sadly, the trees have contracted ‘Ink Disease’ around 20 years ago resulting in many of the trees dying. The intertwined root systems passes the disease to other trees and there’s nothing that can be done. With this in mind, I hope to visit these majestic trees again, ideally in autumn when they will look even more magical with their orange leaves.
This National Trust video about the beautiful sweet chestnuts at Croft Castle is worth a watch just to see the trees in all their summer glory.