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The VariousManor    Woodlands

The Circle of Trees

The huge damage done to the circle of trees is clearly seen in the contrast between the first two photographs below. The upper one taken by John Howell in 1964 shows more than 50 healthy trees. The lower one taken in 2004 By Gaynor Smith shows about 25 trees, half of which are dead or dying. These trees have all been destroyed by vandalism, some burned, some felled by axe and some damaged by stolen cars being crashed into them and then set alight. It's a tragedy. It's been said that one picture is winter and one summer, that is true, I say count the trunks for yourself...... Del Smith

Fir Wood Section

Fir Wood

Mainly Hornbeam, but at the southern end, dominated by Elm scrub. The canopy is very dense so that only shade resistant ground plants can be found. Plants such as the Moschatel, Enchanters Nightshade and the Wood-Sorrel and a strong stand of Ramsons (Wild Garlic) which would be obvious to anyone who walked through it by its strong scent. It also has the usual woodland plants of the park such as Bluebell, Lesser Celandine and Anemone. The white Sweet Violets are worth finding in the south west of the wood in March. The only violets in the park with that characteristic scent ( please do not succumb to the temptation to pick them there may be a queue waiting just to get a sniff.)

It is worth looking out for a stand of Poplars just out of the wood onto the golf course. If you walk out of the wood into the meadow at the North West end you will also find Adders Tongue, a rare plant, along with the more common and aromatic Meadowsweet.

In April 1980, A Nightingale arrived in Dagnam Park, it was first heard in daylight in the corner of Fir Wood, near the golf course, it sang all afternoon on the 16th April. It was subsequently heard by other bird watchers over a period of about 6 weeks. As far as we know this was the first documented sighting of the species in the park. Dave Sampson has kindly listed the subsequent sightings . These being; Hatters Wood 14/5/1980, Priory 28/5/1987and the scrub area (ex Rugby pitch) 19/5/1994 (remained for 2 days)

In 2005 I discovered (or was reminded) that Ernie Herbert had in fact recorded the Fir Wood bird during its stay. The recording was made in the dead of night and preserved on tape, Thanks to Ernie you can now hear it yourself.

Download the file and sing it to me

Hatters Wood

Hatters Wood

Hatters Wood is a remnant of ancient woodland that once covered much of the area now known as Essex, The ancient woodland indicator trees species present are Hornbeam, Oak, Ash, Field Maple, Hawthorn, Holly, Wild Service Tree, Wild Cherry and Rowan. More recent introductions include, Beech, Horse Chestnut, Sweet Chestnut, Sycamore, Cherry Laurel, Turkey Oak, and Holm Oak.

Below that the ground flora is characteristic of ancient woodland with Bluebell, Lesser Celandine, several species of Violet, Dogs Mercury and Wood Anemone dominating.

Up towards the Priory several introduced species are naturalised, Snowdrop, Spring Snowflake and Spring Squill can be seen in early Spring and Greater Periwinkle throughout spring and early summer. Scarcer plants such as Butchers Broom and Primrose can also seen.

In the great storm of 1987 all of the park's woodlands suffered considerable damage.

In Hatters wood, (2002) Nuthatches, Tree Creepers as well as all three British Woodpeckers can be found. Hawfinches used to breed in the wood but sadly no longer. In winter if you get up early and are lucky enough you may well flush a Woodcock. Amongst the summer visitors, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs can still be heard singing. The first Butterflies to appear each year will be the hibernators such as the Peacock and Tortoiseshell and the most striking of these the sulphur yellow coloured Brimstone. A little later you will often see the yellow and brown Speckled Wood.

Quarles Pond

We have called it the Quarles Pond for convenience (Quarles School was at one time very close by, the Quarles buildings are currently (2012) an annexe to a technical College. The Two pictures below were taken by Dave Sampson in the 1990's. The pond is situated in the north west corner of Hatters Wood and over the last 50 years the habitat has varied greatly. At times being virtually dry for years on end and very much overshaded. In the last couple of decades some conservation work has been carried out. These are spring photos with good water levels.

Mud Hill Pond from the North in 2000 by Jim Spencer

                               A CHANCE ENCOUNTER !

I met this old man in Dagnam Park in the winter of about 1973. He had an old push chair, for transporting his logs, a bow saw to separate them into reasonable sized chunks and a club hammer and a steel wedge for splitting them . I stopped to talk to him in the narrow strip of woodland from Hatters down towards the old Priory. I spent an hour with him taking a few pictures and asking him far too many questions. Among the freely given answers he explained that he lived in Gillingham House in Lindfield Road along with his wife and that he used fallen wood for their open fire. I asked him if he had always lived on Harold Hill. He said “no, far from it, before I retired  I was a gamekeeper in Suffolk". He told me of his memories as a boy, memories  going back to his village in the early 1900s. 

I was absorbed by his memories of rural life in Suffolk decades earlier. I remember thinking it was so sad that such an obvious countryman was going to end his days on a council estate in Romford but he made no complaints about that. The memories that he seemed most interested in sharing  with me were those of the first world war when he remembered that only a few of the boys who had enlisted just a few years previously  had come back home. He told me how at the end of the war the mothers would congregate every day in the lane into the village from the nearest railway station. They knew that there was one train every day, they knew that the men that had survived would disembark from each day's solitary train and walk or in some cases hobble the final miles back home. They were all ever hopeful. Though as the weeks and months passed less and less mothers congregated as their hopes faded. Until the day came when the last mother gave up all hope and walked back home alone for the last time.

Many never returned. He said "some mothers lost all of their sons".

More mundanely he also told me that every Friday in his village a cart would turn up with fresh fish. All the villagers would collect around the cart to buy their weekly treat. He answered all of my questions but sadly I never wrote all of his answers down and I can only recollect a few of them, but I have kept the photos.

I promised him I would print  the photos and drop them off at his flat and he gave me his address.  In those days I developed and printed all my own black and white film. I was pleased with these photos and about a week after I first met him  I turned up at his ground floor flat with a couple of enlarged prints. On knocking the door was opened by his wife who was seriously suspicious about my story. The old boy was not home but his wife softened when I handed her the photos. She looked genuinely pleased with them. 

Earlier in the woods I had noticed that his bow saw blade was completely blunt and the following week I managed to get a new blade, that looked about the right size from Everards in Hilldene. I paid a second visit to the flat and lied to his wife that I had found the blade in my shed, I handed it over and she was grateful. I never saw her again.

Some weeks later I met up with the old boy in the woods for the second and last time,  I asked him if he had the new blade. Yes he said., I asked him how he got it in and he described to me in detail how to install a bow saw blade using the tourniquet method.

 Simply put, this requires a string loop to be placed around both ends of the bow. Then you need to  insert a stick in the loop and wind and wind the loop;  The string gets shorter and shorter and eventually it pulls the two arms of the bow saw together enabling you to engage the new blade. It was a revelation to me. (Note; nowadays it's all done with a butterfly nut)

 I never knew his name. I don't recall the name of his village and sadly I never saw him again.

 Del Smith       


This set of three pictures of the Quarles Pond were taken by Don Tait in March 2012

Dutch Elm Disease

The photo below was taken in 1973 during the Dutch Elm disease crisis. My wife Gaynor was standing by the huge trunk of a felled elm in the narrow arm of Hatters Wood near The Priory smallholding. It had 193 rings. When Elm disease began to take off in England the government had an early policy of felling healthy elms in the hope of halting the spread of the disease. It didn't work and they gave it up. Dutch Elm disease went on to destroy almost all mature elms throughout Britain. The treescape changed dramatically. Dagnam Park was no exception it lost all of its English Elms. All that is left for today’s visitors to see is the elm scrub that isn’t affected until it grows up. One day in the spring of 1973 we were up by the priory when we came across some huge machines and several workers. They had come in from the Noak Hill Road. I remonstrated with them because they had felled several other mature trees of other species including an Oak. They said they needed to fell them to get their machines in. I was a bit younger and less patient then, I think I was making a bit of a fuss. When one bloke said "I don't like doing it" I said “why don't you get a different job then?” He said "what do you do?" I replied "I'm a carpenter". I slunk off shortly after wishing I had said bricklayer.                                       Del Smith

Holm Oaks

Holm Oaks in Dagnam Park

The Holm Oak was introduced into Britain from the mediterranean in the 1600's and it is a hardy tree even in our harsher climate. It is easily recognised because it is our only evergreen Oak species. It was widely planted in the grounds of large houses and parklands, not a really rare tree but infrequent.

There are still (2011) a few Holm Oaks in Dagnam Park, in Hatters Wood and in the old playing fields. see below.  Many early visitors to the Manor will remember the long gone "Giant Oak"

Below, the Giant Holm Oak, (Quercus ilex) that once stood in the gardens close to the Dagnams mansion between the Lily pond and the Perch pond.

The huge spreading branches were supported by a ring of wooden props which were themselves small tree trunks, several can be seen in this picture. Holm Oak is an evergreen species of Oak, there are several others in the park. This photograph was taken in 1964/5. The tree had already shed a large limb and this picture shows a ring of stakes and a ramshackle chain link fence that the Greater London Council had put up in the interests of public safety. A few years later the tree was cut down and removed completely. This photograph was taken by Brian Herbert, at the time he lived in Tarnworth Rd. His friends depicted also lived in Tarnworth Rd. They are William ( white cardigan ) and Robin Gartshore they had an older sister Ella.

Brian lost contact when he moved to Australia later in 1965, he would dearly like to know where they are now. So if anyone has any clues please let us know.

                    ( They were subsequently located in Spain via this website.)

Editors Note. in her book, Dorina Neave refers to this tree as the Cork ilex, this is a mixture of English and Latin and refers to two separate species. There is a tree known as Cork Oak (Quercus suber) but our tree is undoubtably the Holm Oak (Quercus ilex). Dorina would have been familiar with the Cork Oak as it is a mediterranean species but it is not hardy and does not thrive in the British climate.                                   Del Smith

      (We are extremely grateful to Brian Herbert for permission to publish the photograph.)

Below a Holm Oak in the old playing fields, Photo Don Tait, 2011. Below that the same tree in 2020 clearly distressed.

There is some long standing damage to the trunk and Don Tait reports that it is also heavily infested with a leaf mining moth. Though that is not expected to be terminal.

Another much larger Holm Oak can be found just within Hatters Wood behind the site of the old concrete changing rooms/toilets. A single tree with three trunks. Photo Del Smith, March 1973.

The same tree, little changed after forty years. Don Tait 2013

Peter Adams has recently (2020) pointed out that this tree is also in some distress. The three pictures below all taken in 2020 by Peter illustrate the trouble it is in. The fissures in the trunk seem to be part of the problem. We need an arborculturist to explain why this has happened. This tree is also plagued with leaf mining moths.

Peter Adams recently (2020) discovered a third Holm Oak near the Priory pond. This tree is seriously impacted by an Ash tree that is growing on the same spot. As well as suffering this serious competition it is also infected by leaf mining moths and what looks leaf galls caused by mites.

On the left a light infestation of leaf miners.

Below galls caused by a mite. Both photos by Peter Adams

Oak Tree Ancient

Oak trees - Ancient


Notes on some of the park's old oaks by Bob Mawson.

Bob Mawson who lived in Priory Rd up until 1971 has recently been in touch with us and provided us with the data that he created in February 2012. At that time he measured and recorded the oak trees that he considered some of the oldest in the Priory Rd area of the park. He said one had already been subjected to vandalism. They may all be at risk. The table below linked to the Google Maps image below that shows the grid references and the girths of those trees. The measurements were taken at the standard height of three feet.     Del Smith

      GRID REF            Girth in Metres

1    TQ5468093133        5.1

2    TQ5451993144        5

3    TQ5438993211        3.6

4    TQ5413393219        4.7

5    TQ5414093270        4.2

6    TQ5415393290       5.7

7    TQ5434993357        3.75

8    TQ5434993409        3.6

Bob also commented on an ancient Oak that he suggested might be one of the oldest in the park. It had a girth of over six metres. It is middle of the first field to the east of the old Wrightsbridge Road close to a depression/pond that also once hosted two Wych Elms.


Walnut Trees
Gooshayes/Walnut/Carrers office

Walnut Trees Harold Hill

walnut wardrobe.jpg

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 fashion 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)

The Osiers

The Osiers

A mixture of Oak, Sycamore, Hornbeam and Ash, this wood has a dense canopy and the usual ground flora of the park's woodlands. It is the best place in the park to see the Yellow Archangel. The margins of the wood have a good showing of Hawthorn and along the riverbank you can find Hazel and Alder.
Once a very peaceful spot the bird song is now virtually drowned out by the noise from the M25. No longer a pleasant place to sit unless the M25 has come to a halt, an event that seems to occur with ever increasing regularity. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining.

It always puzzled me as to why this wood was called The Osiers because there are no Osiers (willows) in there, neither were there ever likely to have been, it is pretty dry. An old map revealed the truth, it was known as Hosier's in early days. Named after an early owner, mystery explained.

N.B. That this woodland first appears on a 1633 map as Hoses grone (woodland) in subsequent maps it sometimes appears and then not. Maybe it was too inconsequential to map or possibly it was clear felled and replanted. It does not appear to hold trees as old as 400 years. It is not shown on the 1805 Ordnance Survey map. All the other local woods are shown.

A field of flax with the Osiers in the background and the walled garden out of view on the right. photo Dave 

 Yellow Archangel. photo Patrick Smit

The Osiers in spring time. photo Gaynor

The Osiers in Spring. Photo Dave Sampson

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