An outstanding feature of Mill Hill Park is its range of trees – It could almost be classified as an arboretum. It is home to several thousand trees across more than 60 different species. These include old favourites such as oaks and maples as well as many rare varieties including two Sequoia, a Zelkova and a Paulownia – trees that you normally only see on a trip to Kew Gardens. We will introduce you to some of these in our ‘Tree of the Month’.
Most of these trees have been planted over the decades since the Park was opened in 1924 but the old oaks predate this and mark the original field boundaries of the farms on whose land the Park is now situated. One of these oaks, near the zigzag path, is thought to be around 500 years old.
Many trees have been planted either individually or in groups, often to commemorate the contributions of local Mill Hill residents such as the oak opposite the middle tennis court planted to honour Ted Anderson, the first chair of the Friends of Mill Hill Park, thanking him for guiding the organisation from its inception through the first 7 years of its work; and most recently the Paulownia tree near the path from Daws Lane, in recognition of David Welch, a great friend of the park over many years.
There have also been a number of major plantations of trees. The earliest is a group of maples, that were planted in the NE corner of the Flower Lane park section to honour the coronation of King George VI. Sometime later, a mixed planting was established in the main park between the A1/A41 and the zigzag path, celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 40th anniversary and soon after, in 1993-94, a Community Forest Nature Reserve, located behind the Etz Chaim School, was developed, surrounding a wild flower meadow.
Two further plantings in the Flower Lane section, located alongside the A1/A41, celebrate the millennium. One of these was planted by the Mill Hill Community and the other by the Mill Hill Preservation Society, who have also been responsible for other smaller plantings in the Park. The largest and most recent planting, however, is the Memorial Woodland, designed by members of the Friends of Mill Hill Park and planted in late 2021 by members of the public in memory of lost loved ones. The 500 trees – crab apples, hawthorn, wild cherry, goat willow, alder and field maple – are arranged in 3 clusters around a grassy area with central hornbeam tree. The bench around this tree, as well as the many others across the park, allow visitors to the Park to find a peaceful spot for contemplation.
Have you been walking in the park recently and noticed, as you go down the path by the tennis courts, a rather attractive strong sweet perfume and wondered where it is coming from?
The answer is the delicate flowers of the lime trees (Tilia) that are in bloom in July. They are a favourite with bees, who love the nectar – and lime honey is a delicious treat. There are three types of lime tree: T. cordata (with heart shaped leaves), T. europaea and T. platyphyllos (the broadleaved lime).
Limes are moderate sized trees that grow unimpeded in the park, although sadly they are losing leaves in the current drought. They are also used as street trees as they will tolerate hard pruning and so can be kept relatively small. However, there are two main drawbacks to using them in street. First, they are prone to send out basal suckers, and so need regular trimming. More annoyingly for those living nearby, in the summer they often exude a sticky gum that is difficult to remove from your car if you have made the mistake of parking under a lime tree (especially T. europaea)!