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Harold Hill's Walnut Trees.

The Walnut, (Juglans regia) a truly regal tree. Introduced into Britain by the Romans and planted across the country in some numbers. A southern European species that in the right conditions can thrive in England. We all knew the fruits as children. For one I was dissapointed to find a few in my Christmas stocking every year along with the obligatory tangerine. I wanted more expensive gifts. But nevertheless walnuts came around every Christmas.

Walnut was also the veneer of choice for furniture in the 50s (and long before that). As a child I often lay in bed at night, sleepless, looking at the shapes of the monsters in my walnut burr veneered wardrobe. Complex and usually matched in slices opposed left to right. Out of fasion now but much prized for centuries before. If mine hadn't have gone onto a 60s bonfire and been replaced by a chipboard and melamine ten minute wonder it would have been worth a small fortune by now. Such is progress.

It was traditional for farm houses and other large houses to have a walnut tree in their grounds. The Dagnam’s walled garden had four walnut trees which were trained to hang over the north-east wall into the garden. Due to their precarious angle, over the years they all collapsed. By¬†1974 three were dead on the ground and only one was alive and just about standing. There was no sign of them in 2005. There were others on the estate, deliberately left in place by the developers. One ended up near the Community Centre/Citizens Advice Centre (Gooshays farm) until it fell in 2006. Pyrgo Priory School Playground (Dagnam Park Farm) and The Red House (Harold Hill House) also used to glory in one each. There may be others still alive; The Morris Dancer is a good bet.

   Recently Peter Adams has uncovered one previously unrecognised tree in Widdicombe Close (Harold Wood Hall) and after a search of the grounds of both Harold Hill House (The Red House) and the Morris Dancer he has concluded that even if walnut trees were once present, they are no longer. Though he did discover that one still stands alongside the farmhouse at Hill Farm.

Del Smith (August 2019)

Below a pre war map of Dagnam Park Farm. Dycorts Junior school was built on the site of the buildings. The farmhouse is orange to the east of the other farm buildings, the walnut tree site deduced from modern maps of the school is indicated in green. Below that the Dycorts School walnut tree photo that I took in the winter of 1973. It stood on the green out front of the school hall. I was a pupil there from 1953 until 1959. As pupils we were banned from throwing sticks at the nuts in an attempt to bring them down. We simply went back over the weekend and climbed up to reach them. We were always disappointed because they were green and pretty unpalatable. The tree which was in poor condition was removed in the early 90s. A sad loss.

This beautiful walnut tree once stood out front of the Gooshays farmhouse. In 2005 it stood alongside what was the Citizens Advice Bureau, formerly the Youth Employment Office in Gooshays Drive. The tree which was badly decayed collapsed in 2006 after shedding a major limb earlier. The first aerial image below was taken in 1951 during the construction of Harold Hill. Gooshays farm is in the centre with the farm house to the right of the buildings. In front of the house stood the walnut. The works buildings on the mid right of the photo are associated with the construction of Harold Hill and were eventually removed. Below the aerial photo are three photos of the actual tree. Thanks to Don Tait for the first probably taken in the late 1980's and to Peter Adams for the last two taken in 2006.

Below a pre war map overlaid with the Neave Crescent estate roads in pink. It can be seen that the Widdicombe Close walnut (in green) once stood in the grounds of the Harold Wood Hall.

Below two images of the Widdicombe Close tree taken by Peter Adams in August 2019 .