The Well Hall Pleasaunce Tree Trail features twenty two trees.See the link to the map at the bottom of this page.
The tree names in bold are the ‘common’ names, whilst those in italics are the botanical names, and are in Latin.
Although you may join the trail at any point, the first tree on the trail (London Plane) is situated in the Walled Garden. You will find it by entering the Pleasaunce from the entrance in Well Hall Road, opposite the Co-op.
Public toilets are situated immediately inside the park gate.
A visit to all twenty two trees, with a few minutes’ stop at each, will take you about an hour.
The terrain is flat throughout. There are some steps, but wheelchair users can navigate around the site and avoid these.
For the most part, paths are of good quality.
You may like to bring a packed lunch with you. Alternatively, there are several cafes in Well Hall Road.
Well Hall Pleasaunce Tree Trail
1. London Plane
Platanus x hispanica
This tree is widely planted in urban areas, often alongside roads. It thrives in areas where the air is dirty and is effective at soaking up airborne pollutants.
Of immediate note is the dappled bark. The tree is able to shed its bark, and in so doing, continually regenerates itself. As each olive-brown segment ages, it flakes off, exposing new, creamy-white bark below. This, in time, will turn first green, then brown.
London Planes flower in May, producing green catkin-like flower-heads, which are pollinated by the wind. The flower clusters hang down on long stalks, usually with one below the other. Fruits (know as ‘bobbles’) ripen over the winter, turning brown. Each fruiting bobble produces lots of tiny seeds, bearing hairs that aid dispersal by the wind.
The ‘x’ in the Latin name denotes that the tree is a hybrid – a cross between two types of tree: the oriental Plane and the American Plane.
It is widely planted in London parks, as the large leaves provide plenty of shade.
2. Cedar (Mount Atlas Cedar)
Cedrus atlantica libani
The large spreading coniferous tree at the north east corner of the walled garden is an Atlas Cedar is a large cedar native to the Atlas mountains of Algeria and Morocco.
It can grow into a large tree, up to 40m (130ft) high, with a trunk of considerable girth.
In its native lands, it forms forests on the sides of mountains. It is similar in appearance to the Cedar of Lebanon. Cedars are attractive trees and are often planted in parks and gardens.
The cones, bearing the seed, contain a sticky resin with a distinctive, clean, pine-like scent. The oil is traditionally used in herbal medicine. Essential oil of Atlas cedar is used for its aroma and fixative powers in soaps and perfumes. Cedar essential oil is good for the hair and scalp.
This particular tree appears in photographs of Well Hall House, the home - between 1899 and 1922 - of the children’s author, Edith Nesbit.
(* See information plaque, to follow).
(Go through the green gates)
3. Horse Chestnut
Native to northern Greece and Albania. Introduced to Britain from Greece in about 1616, this tree is to be found wild all over the country, but is frequently seen in parks or lining avenues. It is recognisable by its cluster of leaves, usually of five, spreading like the palm of a hand. The fruit is covered with a spiky green husk. When removed, a hard brown nut – the conker – is revealed.
Horse chestnut flowers open in late April / May in upright, candle-like clusters.
The timber is a pale cream in colour, light in weight and rather weak. It has little commercial value, although it is sometimes used for toy making.
The tree matures in about 100 years and can reach heights of up to 41m (134 ft).
This tree has a long association with horses. Indeed, the Greek word Hippos means ‘horse’. Conkers were fed to horses to remedy lameness. The healing property extends to humans, too. If one were to purchase a remedy for varicose veins, it would probably contain extract of Horse Chestnut.
(A decorative species, the Indian Horse Chestnut, may be seen later).
4. Holm Oak
The two evergreen trees, planted close together at the Co-op gates entrance at first sight, look like a giant hollies; (holm is an old local name for the holly and the Latin name for a holly is ilex). The Holm Oak originates in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea. It thrives in countries with hot, dry summers and cool rainy winters.
Unlike the deciduous English Oak, the Holm Oak retains its leaves in winter. Oval in shape, with a thick, leathery texture, each leaf can live for about 3 years. In the spring, pale green shoots sprout from the tree’s dark foliage. The bark is dark grey to black, broken into a myriad of small, rough, irregular squares. The heartwood (i.e. the inner part of the trunk) is very hard and heavy and is used in decorative woodware where great strength is needed. It makes a first-rate firewood.
The waxy leaves are resistant to salt-laden winds and the Holm Oak is often planted as a shelter-belt in southern coastal towns. The acorn of the Holm Oak is oval in shape, with a pointed tip. It grows in an acorn cup, which covers more than half its length and is readily eaten by pigs and birds.
Also in this area is the dark, mysterious, evergreen Yew is native which is native throughout Europe and most of Britain. It is planted for both shelter and topiary (* example of the latter to follow).
The wood is hard and durable, but has elastic properties, making it ideal in the construction of long bows. The wood is an attractive red-brown and looks beautiful when polished.
The Yew was considered a sacred tree in ancient times and was planted on sacred sites. Many of these sites were later to become the sites of Christian churches. You will often find Yews growing in old churchyards.
The Yew can grow to a great age, with many examples being more than a thousand years old. Yew likes chalky soil and can grow in the shade of other trees. However, nothing grows beneath it.
The bark, leaves and seed are poisonous. However, Yew clippings are collected and are used in the manufacture of anti-cancer drugs.
(Note the plaque about the children’s novelist, Edith Nesbit,
who lived in a house on this site from 1899 until 1922)
(From the plaque, take path over rustic bridge, heading toward the Tudor Barn).
Further along towards the Tudor Barn, the sycamore is Europe’s largest Maple, which can grow to a height of more than 35 metres.
Considered little more than a ‘weed’ by many gardeners, due to its amazing ability to regenerate from self-sown seed, the mature Sycamore, such as this, is a valuable habitat to a myriad of tiny insects, which provide food for birds.
Native to central & southern Europe, the Sycamore is very hardy and is often grown as a shelter-belt to protect cattle. It has a smooth, purplish-grey bark and produces flowers, which hang in long yellowish-green clusters from the outer branches, in April.
The Sycamore, as with other Maples, produces pairs of seeds, mounted on bladed ‘wings’ which, having turned from red-green to brown, fall in the autumn. They twirl round on the wind, like helicopter blades.
The timber, a pale creamy-brown, is very hard and does not warp. When worked, such as on a lathe, it can become smooth. It is used in the making of furniture, flooring for dance-halls, bowls, ornaments and rollers. Sycamore wood is also used for making the back, sides and stocks of stringed instruments (e.g. violins, guitars).
7. Maidenhair tree (or Ginkgo)
Heading towards the Kidbrooke Lane entrance, the madienhair (also one in the woodland glen) is truly ancient and is the survivor of a group of trees that flourished millions of years ago. The Ginkgo is native to a remote part of China, where Buddhist monks, who introduced it to Japan, adopted it as a sacred tree. From there it became introduced to Europe and America in the eighteenth century.
A Deciduous tree, it can grow to a height of 30 m (100ft). There are male and female Ginkgos, each producing separate flowers; the male flowers are small and light green, produced in March. The tiny female flowers develop into fruit which, when it decays, is foul smelling!
(Rest assured: parkland Maidenhair trees are male).
The species is tolerant of air pollution, most pests and disease, and hence it makes an ideal tree for cities. It is often planted in parkland, as it is a very attractive tree.
Ginkgo is used in herbal medicine in the treatment of circulatory disorders, such as Raynaud's Syndrome (tingling, pain, and numbness in the fingers). It is also used to boost memory and mental agility. It has been shown that its active ingredients relax the walls of the arteries, allowing blood to better reach the extremities.
(Take path to front of the Tudor barn lawn).
• Examples of a ‘clipped’ Yew may be seen on the lawn, to your left.
Yew is often used in Topiary, the ornate art of shaping a tree by careful pruning.
• You will pass, on your right, a memorial plaque to William Barefoot, Councillor and Mayor of the old Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich.
Barefoot – “ He loved Nature…” - was instrumental in the creation of the Pleasaunce as a public park and gardens).
On the far side of the green in front of the Tudor Barn, the ash is native to Europe, including Britain, Ash is an important timber tree. The wood has an even, pale creamy-brown colour, and is hard and strong and resistant to shock. It is preferred to other native timber in the making of handles of hammers, axes, chisels, shovels and all tools subject to strain and shock. It is used in the interiors of houses and was used to make the shafts of carts, the rims of cart-wheels and the frame of the classic Morris ‘Traveller’ car. It is also used to make hockey sticks and oars.
Ash grows up to 45m tall, but even at this height, its girth will not exceed 6.7m.
It is easily identifiable by its jet-black buds, set in pairs, with one main ‘leading’ bud at the tip of each branch. Flowering occurs in April. Seeds (‘keys’) are produced, in clusters, and fall in autumn. Each has a single, twist wing that keeps it airborne until it has drifted away from the parent tree.
The people of Scandinavia worshipped the Ash as a sacred tree.
9. White Poplar
Opposite the entrance to the woodland glen to the north of the Tudor Barn, the white poplar is a handsome tree, native to most of western Europe. It is cultivated in Europe and North America as an ornamental tree and is found in streets, parks and gardens. Being resistant to salt spray, it is also grown as a shelter-belt on the coast.
It grows to 30m, but examples reaching such height will be park specimens, such as these two. Flowers open in April, the male ones being reddish crimson and the females being greenish-yellow. The fruits, as catkins, release white, cottony seeds in June. The leaves, when they open, are covered with a thick, white down, but become a dark glossy green on their upper surface, whilst retaining a crisp white underside.
(There are two to look at….one upright, and one leaning).
(Bear left and pass through the green gated railings into the narrow strip alongside the Moat).
10. Common Lime (or European Lime)
Tilia x europea
This attractive tree is often planted in parks and gardens, both for its pleasing shape and the shade it affords. Limes are often known as Linden trees. The ‘x’ denotes that this is a hybrid – a cross between more than one type. In this case, it is a cross between the Large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos) and the Small-leaved lime
(Tilia cordata). It can grow to a great height – up to 39m (130ft).
It produces fragrant yellow flowers, which appear in mid June / early July.
The fruits – small ‘bobbles’ – dangle down on stalks. The big leaves are often covered with a sticky resin (called ‘honey dew’), which is produced by aphids, which live on them.
Lime-flowers are used to make a satisfying and relaxing tea, which, apart from being a nice drink, is good for indigestion, anxiety, nervous vomiting or palpitations.
Lime wood has a pale, creamy-brown colour. It is fairly soft, but keeps a firm edge when it has been carved. Wood carvers choose it as it can be worked in any direction and is a good medium for fine wood sculpture.
11. Black Mulberry (or Common Mulberry)
The small tree furher along this strip to the left of the path is the Common Mulberry which has been cultivated in Europe and Asia for thousands of years, so its exact origins are obscure. It is probably native to the Far East.
The fruit, which changes from an early green, through red, to a dark red / almost black, is traditionally used in the production of jam and wine. The tiny fruits appear in May and will grow and ripen through the summer.
The Black Mulberry can grow to only 9m (30ft) and is often crooked.
Male & female flowers appear in separate catkins.
(Note: A related, but different tree, the White Mulberry, is grown as the food plant of the silkworm).
(Cross the wooden bridge on your left and bear to the right)
12. Walnut (or English Walnut)
Introduced into Britain by the Romans. Its name, originally Anglo-Saxon, means ‘strange, or foreign, nut’. At first sight, the tree resembles an Ash, but if one crushes and rubs a leaf, the rich aroma will reveal the tree’s identity. The juice will stain your fingers. Leaves open in May and soon after, male and female flowers appear. After pollination, a green fruit, with a thick leathery skin, will appear. This is the ‘green walnut’, which, in the summer, can be pickled in vinegar. If left to fully ripen, the green husk withers and in October the nut becomes exposed. If the pale-brown shell is removed, the kernel – the part we eat – will be revealed.
Walnut timber has a pale-brown sapwood and a deep-brown inner heartwood.
It is a very attractive & strong timber and, having a smooth appearance, is used in wood sculpture, carving, turnery and ornamental work, including trays and bowls. Large stems are sliced into veneers (thin strips) and are applied to decorate high-grade furniture. Solid walnut furniture is rare and costly.
The tree can reach a height of 25m (82ft).
13. Pedunculate (or English) Oak
A true classic. Native to Europe & widespread throughout. Its acorns (from the old Danish words eg korn, meaning ‘oak seed’) are set on long stalks, or ‘peduncles’. Its leaves, by contrast, are short-stalked, or stalk-less. The Pedunculate Oak can grow to a very old age, possibly to about 800 years old. It is valued for its timber, especially in the past, when Oak forests covered much of Britain.
The uses of Oak follow its properties of great strength and durability; these include fencing, the construction of timber barns and half-timbered houses, churches, ships, tables, chairs and joinery. It also makes beer barrels and sherry casks.
The Oak flowers in May, producing small, yellow flowers. Acorns, which provide food for squirrels, woodpeckers, jays, pheasants and wood mice, are produced in plentiful numbers only in ‘mast’ years (from the Scandinavian mat meaning food). In non ‘mast years’, acorn production will be relatively small. Although most get eaten, some animals will bury acorns in the ground, as a winter food store. Those that germinate will grow.
In the past, and continuing to this day in the New Forest, acorns are used for fattening pigs. Following a good crop, Commoners gather acorns under a ‘Right of Pannage’ (from the Norman French pesner, meaning ‘to grub with the snout’).
The Common Oak may grow to more than 30m. The highest one was recorded at 37m. The Druids in Celtic Britain held it as a sacred tree.
14. Indian Horse Chestnut
Walking westwards, just after the wooden bridge is the Indian horse chestnut, a
native to the north-west Himalaya and planted in parks and gardens, as it is a majestic and decorative tree. It can reach 30m (110 ft).
It flowers in June and July, later than the Common Horse Chestnut.
The bark is a greenish-grey on young specimens, but becomes reddish and smooth as the tree matures.
(Most of you will know the next tree, but for clarity, it’s to your right, on the far side of the stream. The numbered green disk may be hard to spot)
15. Weeping Willow
Salix babylonica (or Salix tristis)
The Weeping Willow is a native of China. It is depicted in ‘Willow Pattern’ crockery - the blue-and-white porcelain imported into England from China during the last half of the eighteenth century. It is often seen in parks and gardens and thrives by water. (Many years ago, this area of the Pleasaunce had water flowing through it (it was pumped around), but the area remains damp through the winter and spring). Weeping Willow is an ornamental tree, and as such, it is not grown for its timber. However, the timber of the related White Willow (Salix alba) has been used for centuries; it is soft, light and easily turned and was for many years used to make plates and bowls. The best-known use of the wood is for the making of cricket bats.
The bark of the White Willow is widely used in herbal medicine, as it is an effective pain reliever. It contains compounds called salicylates (you will note the similarity to the Latin botanical name, Salix). Aspirin was produced using these compounds. White willow bark, like Aspirin, is used for conditions that cause pain, inflammation, or fever, such as acute back pain, fever, ‘flu and joint pain.
(Turn sharp left. There are 3 specimens of the next tree)
16. Scots Pine
Opposite the willow, towards the rhododendrons, is Britain’s only native conifer. Although widespread in Europe, it is prevalent in the wild in Scotland, hence its name. It is recognisable by its pinkish-grey bark, which on its higher, or more juvenile branches, may be a flaky, orangey-red. Its distinctive needles, set in pairs, are short and bluish green. Clusters of flowers appear in May, which will scatter clouds of golden pollen on the wind. Pine cones take a long time to ripen, the cone scales staying shut for two years after the flowers first appeared. They become brown and woody, and open gradually. The scales, which are not prickly, release tiny winged seeds.
Scots Pine trees have a strong, resinous heartwood, within a pale brown sapwood. The timber is used for making fence posts, telegraph poles and railway sleepers – all objects that are constantly in contact with damp ground. The wood is easily worked and is used in making furniture and boxes.
The tree can grow to 37 metres (120ft).
Pine produces an oil that is much used in herbal medicine. lt is extracted by steam distillation from fresh pine needles, branch tips, and shoots and is used in ointments and bath salts as a remedy for bronchitis, coughs and colds, fever, nerve pain, rheumatism and a sore throat. It is commonly a main ingredient (often in a synthetic form) of disinfectant.
(Follow the path and enter through the arch into the Walled Garden. Turn right.)
17. Japanese Crab Apple
In front and to the left of the shelter as you look outwards, the crab apple originates from Japan, this is probably a hybrid rather than a ‘true’ species. It is often grown in parks and gardens in Europe. It can reach a height of 6 - 9 m
(20 – 30ft). Its flowers – a profusion of dark pink – appear in late April / early May.
It produces fruit - tiny little ‘apples’ of about 2cm – that ripen in October.
(Continue*, turning right and exiting the Walled Garden through the arch.
Then turn left)
(* NB. Wheelchair uses, or those unable to negotiate steps, may visit the
Golden Rain Tree (tree Number 21) from here, then retrace,
passing through the arch, then turning left).
18. Tulip Tree (or ‘Whitewood’)
A deciduous tree, native to eastern North America. The name originally applied to the tree by the early settlers was ‘Canoe Wood’, from the fact that the Indians made their canoes from the tree.
It is widely cultivated in eastern States and north and western Europe as an ornamental tree.
The timber – called ‘white wood’ – is used in North America for home interiors. It is also used in cabinet work.
It can reach a height of over 45m (150ft) in the wild. It produces big, yellow-green, tulip-like flowers, which open between late May, June and early July.
Early settlers and American Indians made use of the tree in the following ways:
the bark and root was made into a tincture for use as a rheumatic remedy, whilst the fresh leaves were used to make an ointment, which was asserted to be useful in inflammations and gangrene.
(Turn left and enter Pergola)
This is not strictly a tree; it is a climbing vine, but is so good to see, it had to be included in this trail!
It is native to China and was introduced to Europe and North America in 1816.
It can grow to 20-30m long, if well supported, like this example.
Leaves are shiny and green, whilst flowers are violet-blue, reaching full flower in mid May. Wisteria flowers best when grown in partial or full sunshine. In any case, it will flower only after it has become adult (i.e. the juvenile plant will not flower); this maturation period may take many years.
The fruit is a flattened, brown, velvety pod, rather like a bean. The pods mature in the summer, then crack, releasing seed. Wisteria is a member of the Pea family and the seedpods are actually legumes.
Wisteria can live for more than 100 years.
20. Italian Cypress
Flanking the Italian garden to both sides, this variety of Cypress is native to the Mediterranean. You are now in the Italian Garden, so there are several of them planted here. (Posts support them, as the wind can be strong through this part of the Pleasaunce).
Italian Cypress is much cultivated in Europe and North America. It has a dense foliage and grows to a height of up to 45m (150ft). Trees that grow with a slim profile, with their branches pointing skywards and being close to the trunk – (an example is the Lombardy Poplar) – are called Fastigiate, which is Latin for ‘height’ or ‘apex’.
The wood of the Cypress is fragrant, very hard and durable. It is a popular wood for cabinet making and wardrobes, especially since it retains its fragrance, so repels moths and is impervious to woodworm Small, yellow flowers (Male) appear in March, shedding pollen. The Female flowers develop into cones, about 2cm wide. They, like the branches, are very aromatic.
The cones and young branches are used in herbal medicine: they are anti-rheumatic, antiseptic and astringent. Applied externally as a lotion, it firms and eases varicose veins and haemorrhoids. An essential oil is distilled from the shoots. It is used in perfumery and soap making.
(Take steps, on you left, to re-enter the Walled Garden)
21. Golden Rain Tree (or ‘Pride of India’)
To the left of the path heading towards the fountain, this is an amazing tree, with an amazing name! This is a deciduous tree and is native to China, Korea and Japan. It was introduced to Britain in the 1760s. Although it is cultivated for ornamental value in parks, gardens and specialist tree collections, it is fairly uncommon.
Its yellow flowers open in August, in clusters of up to 30cm long (resembling golden rain). The flowers are hermaphrodite (i.e. they have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees. The species can grow to 18m (60ft).
The fruit is spectacular, comprising a red pod, resembling a bladder-like Chinese lantern, containing three jet-black seeds! The leaves, which have an interesting pattern of growth, turn from bright green to yellow as the summer passes, making an attractive complement to the red seed pods.
22. Black Poplar
The Pleasaunce's tallest tree, and the only one above 100 feet, the native Black Poplar a thousand years ago thrived across the lowland floodplains of England. Its massive bulk was almost as common as the English Oak. However, since the beginning of the 19th century, its natural habitat has been steadily eroded by housing and farming. In 200 years, this great tree has been vanishing from the landscape. It is now Britain's rarest native timber tree. However, its many cultivars and varieties are widespread, and the tree you are looking at is one such. A Hybrid Black Poplar can grow to 43m tall (140ft) and can have a girth of up to 8.2m (27ft) round.
The following relates to the ‘true’ Black Poplar: The mature tree is massive; it can be up to 30 metres high, with a trunk up to 2 metres in diameter. It will often grow close to water, in lowland areas. It will often lean sideways. Its bark is heavily ‘bossed’, or ‘fissured’, looking black from a distance (hence the name) whilst, in reality, it is dark grey-brown. The Black Poplar’s lower branches arch downwards, sometimes reaching the ground and its pale yellow twigs are sticky towards the tips. In the spring, the male tree produces deep red catkins, known as ‘Devil's Fingers’. Females produce lime-green catkins and a white, downy seed, in June.
The rather mysterious, gnarly look has long given the Black Poplar a spiritual attraction, too. In some parts of the country it was the subject of tree-dressing ceremonies, dating back centuries, and whose origins are now unknown.
The Black Poplar needs very specialised conditions in which to propagate; its seeds need to lie undisturbed on bare, wet mud or silt from June to October to germinate successfully - conditions that became harder to find as Britain grew more industrialised and more heavily populated. As the need for native timber as a building resource dwindled and fewer Black Poplars were planted, this propagation difficulty became even more important.
A further complication was that only male trees had generally been planted - females were considered a nuisance, because of the drifting white ‘down’ they produce.
Over the last ten years or so, a national campaign to save the Black Poplar has been running. Nurseries have managed to collect seed from the true tree and produce saplings, which are being planted in suitable places throughout the land.
Greenwich Council, in partnership with local and regional conservation bodies, is in the process of producing a ‘Biodiversity Action Plan’ for the Borough. (Biodiversity means the ‘variety of Life forms’). This Action Plan will focus on the Borough’s important habitats and species – including those at risk. It includes the appreciation and re-introduction of the Black Poplar, a number of which have already been planted within the Borough.
We hope you have enjoyed the Well Hall Pleasaunce Tree Trail
For further information, please contact the Parks & Open Spaces team.
Tel. 020 8856 2232 or e-mail us at email@example.com