A walk at this time of year will reveal many trees whose colours match those of the fall in New England (though not the forests found there) at a fraction of the price of an air fare across the Atlantic. We have some splendid mature trees, some a century or more old. Wherever you go in St Leonard’s, there are mature oaks, maples, beeches and birches whose leaves turn to shades of brown, yellow, gold and red.
One place to wander on a tree-hunting expedition is County Hall. Quite a few of the trees in the grounds there are evergreen. Outside the main entrance is one of the original “Exeter oaks”, properly called “Lucombe oaks”. William Lucombe was a gardener from St Thomas in the middle of the 18th century and he produced this hybrid which became very popular among wealthy landowners, partly because of his sales expertise. The oaks grew quickly, were evergreen and had a good shape. A few years ago, there was concern that this 250 year old tree might be suffering from a fungal disease, and as a precaution, the tree has been grafted to provide a successor. Outside the Coaver Club, there are some evergreen holm oaks; children play under these in the summer while their parents watch cricket. There is an evergreen Monterey pine by the main entrance. There’s colour to be seen in the beech hedge by Matford Avenue, and in the line of maples at the Matford Lane entrance. The fine horse chestnut trees around Parker’s Well generally also provide some colour at this time of year, although the weather during the summer may mean that the best of the colour is over by the time you read this.
Autumn colour at County Hall, November 2012
There’s more colour to be found in Belle Isle Park. You can make a circular walk by following the riverside path through the park, and returning by the foot and cycle path that runs just outside the fence on the other side. In the park you can enjoy the variety of trees that surround the grassed areas, and by the river bank. By the path, you are at the level of the higher branches of some of the trees, and able to look at the berries growing there.
If you venture along the riverside from Belle Isle towards Exeter Quay, you will pass the grounds of Larkbeare, where there are some fine mature trees. However the best view of these is from across the river.
Depending on the weather and where you walk, you may be able to delight in scuffing through drifts of leaves. It stimulates our senses: there’s the sight of the drifting leaves, the sound of feet crushing them, the feel of heaps of leaves on your feet, and possibly the smell of damp autumn soil and leaves. Is that why adults and children find this such a pleasant activity?
But for a shorter stroll, why not walk round the block from the village? In the last issue, I suggested this walk looking at the gables of houses. Go along Denmark Road, and turn right into Barnfield Hill. Before you walk very far, look back and admire the maple in a garden in Barnfield Road. At the top of the road, turn right into Spicer Road and return. On the way, enjoy the mature trees in the grounds of the almshouses, and those that surround the Maynard School. There are numerous long-established trees, both evergreen and deciduous. Depending on when you walk, there may be trees which have shed all their leaves, revealing the shape of their branches.
Even if you go no further than the village, stop by the cycle racks and look across the road at the trees framed by the shops either side of the car dealer’s.
So enjoy the colour, the trees, and an autumn walk – and ponder the question: why don’t all the leaves fall off at the same time?
The picture below shows autumn colour in Belle Isle Park on November 10th 2011