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Special feature: The rare Black Poplar – populous nigra subsp. betulifolia.


Wilstone village hall last month saw the launch of the new Black Poplar Trail, together with a leaflet produced by The Countryside Management Services, to highlight the significance of our rare native tree.  Attended by the Deputy Mayor of Dacorum, Councillor David Smedley and Councillor Townsend, we were made welcome by Andy Hardstaff, who introduced us to the work of the Countryside Management Services and its role in the black poplar project.

Margaret Noakes gave us a brief history of the project and its origins as a response to Agenda 21 by the Long Marston and Puttenham W.I.  She described the initial survey and the huge amount of work involved in trekking the first 14sq kilometre area identifying and assessing the trees and later the further 7sq kilometres, to complete the survey.  A number of slides showed the particular features of the black poplar.

David Kelland followed, highlighting for us the significant results of the survey, which he had spent many hours entering onto computer.  He good-humouredly described the difficulties that he encountered in interpreting our maps and survey sheets, but battling on, how interesting the results became.  We had indentified over 1200 trees; many were damaged or dead and we were losing them fast because we were not able to care for them as well as we should.

Isabelle Crozier from the CMS gave us a view of the future, telling us of the grants made available for the planting and management of the trees and of the work that Mark Carter had done helping with the project and the writing of the leaflet.

Councillor Smedley unveiled the trail information board on the village hall in Wilstone and we all retired for lunch at the Half Moon.  The sun joined us for a walk over part of the Trail, where there were signs of the somewhat tardy red catkins.  Against blue sky we could see for ourselves the special beauty that these trees have at this time of the year.

More rare trees found.

The Hertfordshire Black Poplar Project has completed a survey of a 19km square area where the black poplar, Britain’s rarest native tree, thrives.  Local volunteers spent last summer surveying the countryside around Wilstone and north of Tring for these valuable trees.  They have now found over 1200 trees, about a tenth of the national population.

The results of the survey were presented to local residents in March at a cheese and wine evening in Wilstone Village Hall.  About 50 people attended the evening to find out more about their black poplar trees.  Margaret Noakes and David Kelland, local volunteers who have been collating the results, showed how rainfall affects the trees’ ability to survive pollarding.  Black poplar trees like particularly wet conditions and are generally found growing in hedgerows beside wet ditches, which is why they are typically found in the Vale of Aylesbury.

The black poplar is a very important landscape tree and in many places is the only tree on the horizon, since the loss of elm to Dutch elm disease.  The survey results have shown that most of the black poplars are coming to the end of their lives and in order to ensure the black poplar remains in the landscape around Long Marston and Wilstone a planting programme has been started.  So far volunteers and land-owners have planted 150 cuttings and these will be added to the survey when they sprout and take root.

If you would like to find out more about the Hertfordshire black poplars email  (Hertfordshire Countryside Management Service).

First published – May 2004

Kind permission from the Village News archives.

Black Poplar project award.

The Hertfordshire Black Poplar Project received a Highly Commended (runner up) award in the Groups Section in the Rotary Environment Awards 2004 for Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

Isabel Crozier and Mark Carter from the Countryside Management Service attended the presentation on Thursday 10th June at the All Saints Pastoral Centre in London Colney to receive the Award on behalf of the Hertfordshire Black Poplar Project.  The awards were presented by Lady Lyell and the key note speech was given by David Bellamy, the President of the Rotary.

The scheme received 43 entries from across Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire and entries were judged on their effectiveness, innovation, community involvement and transferability. [singlepic id=339 w=320 h=240 float=right]

The Black Poplar trail around Long Marston and Wilstone was featured in the May edition of Village News.  This is one of Britain’s rarest trees, and about 10% of the national population is in this area.  The free trail guide (pictured right) is available from the Wilstone village shop, the Half Moon pub, and from Tring Library.

First published in July 2004.

Kind permission from the Village News archives.

Grant available to save old Black Poplar trees  

by Isabel Crozier

This is the last year in which the Countryside Management Service has grants available to help with the costs of tree surgery on our precious Black Poplar trees.

There are many standing dead Black Poplars in hedgerows and on roadsides in the Parish.  The recently survey and study of the trees has found that re-pollarding or carrying out surgery on the trees at the wrong time of the year or cutting them back too hard can increase the risk of the tree dying.  There are ways we can reduce this risk when carrying out surgery.  The Black Poplar Project recommends taking just a third of the crown at a time, leaving at least two years before taking another third.  Whether you cut the whole crown or just part, they recommend that you leave at least a foot (30cm) of the branches above the previous pollard in regularly pollarded trees (having been pollarded in the last 12 years).  Older pollards with larger, heavier branches should be cut at a height leaving 4ft (120cm) of the branch.

This work is best carried out between November and February, when the tree is dormant and before spring growth begins.  It is thought that February is the optimum time within this period.  Once any surgery work has taken place, if there is an appropriate place nearby, a 4-6ft long twig about an inch thick should be taken from the tree having management and pushed into the ground in a suitably wet place.

The grant aid scheme available to assist in the cost of management works in the Tring Rural area is being targeted at black poplars which are in immediate danger of splitting or falling over due to over heavy branches.  It can provide up to 75% of the costs of the work.

For more information contact Isabel Crozier:

Grants will be given on a first come first served basis so be sure to get in quick.

If you would like to support the plight of the Black Poplar and you own land where you could accommodate the trees please contact Mark Carter on 01727 848168 who would be glad to give you some advice on planting cuttings.

The local community in Tring Rural has spent the last five years surveying all the Black Poplars.  Volunteers from the community have formed a steering group with the Countryside Management Service to guide the Hertfordshire Black Poplar Project.

(The Countryside Management Service works with communities in Hertfordshire to care for and enjoy the countryside.  They provided the material for this article.)

First published in October 2004.

Kind permission from the Village News archives.

The Black Poplar Trail Leaflet:

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Further information on the route can be found at: