24 November 2012

Trees of Portslade

Judy Middleton (2002 revised 2012)


copyright © J.Middleton 
It is remarkable how much tree cover there is in this modern
view of Portslade Old Village.
In complete contrast to Hove, the area around Portslade Old Village was always rich in tree cover. This was because there were some landowning families based there with the consequent grand house and wooded grounds plus two wealthy nouveau riche families. These grounds belonged to Portslade House situated on the east side of the village, the Borrers at Portslade Manor on the west side, the Blakers at Easthill, and Portslade Lodge on Locks Hill; while the Mews brothers who had made their money from the Portslade Brewery, were ensconced at Whychcote and Loxdale. Indeed viewed from the west, the east side still provides a continuous vista of trees.

copyright © J.Middleton
This delightful postcard was sent
 with birthday greetings in 1908 and 
depicts Manor Road when it 
was a much narrower thoroughfare. 
The gap in the wall is the entrance 
to Easthill House.

It was indeed fortunate that Portslade Council was able to purchase the grounds of Easthill House, thus providing the area with a much-valued park. During the great gale of October 16/17 1987 some 160 mature trees were lost at Easthill Park, leaving only 74 standing and all requiring attention. It was ironic that the previous year 70 new trees were provided for Portslade, some to replace dead or damaged trees and the rest to increase tree density. But curiously enough such devastation was not all bad news because it enabled a new scheme of specimen planting to take place in the park together with a redesign of some areas. For instance, the walled garden has several interesting and unusual specimens while the woodland walk is a delight with a wild flower area nearby. The park deserves its Green Flag award.  The odd-shaped tree near Easthill House was the result of severe pruning after sustaining gale damage but it has since been removed.

Portslade Manor and its grounds became St Marye’s Convent; today it belongs to Emmaus and expert advice has been sought about the management of its trees. Unfortunately a huge tree overlooking the twitten was found to be in a dangerous condition and was cut right back although a substantial stump was left intact.

The greatest loss as regards trees was the Portslade House estate later occupied by Windlesham House School whose grounds swept from the High Street to Old Shoreham Road and boasted many fine beech trees with fields full of cowslips. If events had worked out, this too might have became a park but instead it was developed for housing.
copyright © J.Middleton 
The war memorial in Easthill Park was once in the middle of an open stretch of grass but looks much better today
shaded with appropriate trees and a planting of flowers. The strange-looking tree near Easthill House

pictured in 2002 was the result of some pruning back after gale damage. The tree has since been felled. 
copyright © J.Middleton 
The approach to Portslade Old Village was photographed in 2012. 
The Village Green, whose name makes it seem an ancient property, was in fact an ordinary field belonging to Whychote up until the 1930s but thankfully is now a public open space. It was notable for the three large trees growing in the centre. In May 1992 the largest elm in the whole of Hove and Portslade – a Huntingdon elm – standing on the Village Green had to be felled. It was damaged in the Great Gale of 1987 and had suffered a previous attack of Dutch elm disease but judicious pruning had saved it for a while. On 27th October 2002 the last of the three trees, a large beech, lost some huge branches in a gale. The remaining branches were quickly removed as a hazard to the public and eventually the stump too was disposed of. 
In 1997 a large elm was felled at Drove Road, Portslade, in Christmas week.
copyright © J.Middleton 
The beech tree in the Village Green was photographed in August 2002. After a night of strong winds, the
afflicted beech tree looked like this on 27th October 2002. 
copyright © J.Middleton 
Drove Road with its large trees and
daffodils was pictured in March 2003.
In Victorian times Portslade Village was known as a picturesque spot with its flint-built cottages, some still thatched, and its quaint little bridge spanning the High Street overshadowed by a veritable tunnel of trees. In the early 20th century many postcards were produced of this view for visitors.
copyright © J.Middleton
There are many old postcards depicting the famous bridge across the High Street.
However, Portslade has few street trees, and those to be found are almost entirely north of Old Shoreham Road. There were only two very large street trees in Portslade, one being in the middle of Manor Road, the other in Foredown Road. Foredown Road had the most trees with a total of 71 and the total for Portslade was only 374. It was interesting to note that evergreen oaks or ilex trees were a feature of Portslade Village and this has been recognised by planting a trio of young trees on the borders of the Village Green. In recent years the large ilex near the Vicarage has been closely pruned.

copyright © J.Middleton 
The sight of an evergreen oak growing serenely in the middle of Manor Road must come as a surprise to those unacquainted with the area.
In the 1970s and 1980s several flowering pink cherry trees were planted in Valley Road and they were a lovely sight in springtime. But current policy is not to plant such trees again as street trees because they are so short-lived and disease prone. In the same era a mountain ash was planted in Rowan Close – this too is a species that has fallen out of favour in recent times.
copyright © J.Middleton 
A similar view down the High Street pictured with autumn colours, the photograph on the right shows the High Street at dusk  
In May 1996 Councillor Leslie Hamilton, senior, planted a London plane at the junction of Valley Road and High Street, Portslade. In spite of two strong timber supports, vandals bent the tree over. The shock made it shed nearly all its leaves but council workers re-aligned it and today it is flourishing.
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Ornamental cherry trees captured in full blossom in Chalky Road and Valley Road in 2000.
In January 2000 Jenny Langston, Mayor of Brighton and Hove, planted an 8-year-old Norway maple at Acorn Day Nursery in the grounds of Portslade Community College to mark the Millennium and the following month she planted a tree in Victoria Recreation Ground in support of Portslade Green Gym Sunday Group.
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Trees with the largest girths in south Portslade are to be found in Portslade Cemetery.
In the south of the area Portslade Cemetery provides some magnificent large trees although the residents in Victoria Road are not always pleased to have their gardens so well shaded since pruning was not done regularly.
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Portslade Railway Station was photographed in May 2003 with the horse chestnut tree and the fruit and vegetable stall
– now alas both gone.
At Portslade Railway Station there was an isolated and much-valued white horse chestnut tree. It was a peculiar site for such a large tree. Unhappily, early in 2012 it was felled.
copyright © J.Middleton 
The north bank of Victoria Recreation Ground was once just an area of grass.
This photograph taken in May 2003 shows a growth of young trees.
The second photograph taken in June 2009 reveals how, once established, the trees have made rapid progress.  
There are also some mature trees to be found in Victoria Recreation Ground. The north bank is of particular note. In the 1960s this was still a bare expanse of grass that was exposed and bleak. There were some failed attempts at planting trees but probably they were too widely spaced. But at last there is good tree cover and from the two photographs it can be seen how quickly they have grown within a few years.
copyright © J.Middleton 
The belt of trees bisecting Vale Park was captured in July 2002.
The undergrowth of plants and bushes has since been cut back. 
Vale Park is another case in point. In the 1960s this was another bare expanse of grass. It has to be remembered that it was once home to sand and flint pits, which were eventually filled up with household rubbish. Given its history, perhaps not much was expected from the land. But since then a tree belt has been established bisecting the park. There used to be an under planting of bushes too but these have been cut right back for health and safety reasons. All the same the park is now completely and imaginatively different from its 1960s’ appearance.

The Great Gale of October 1987

copyright © D.Sharp
Fallen trees on the Village Green, South Street, October 1987. 
copyright © D.Sharp
Manor Road and Easthill Way both blocked by fallen trees, October 1987.
copyright © D.Sharp
Fallen trees in Meadow Close and the east side of Easthill Park, October 1987.
copyright © D.Sharp
Tree fallen onto a bungalow in Millcross Road from the east side of Easthill Park.
The second photograph shows Foredown Road blocked by fallen trees, October 1987.

Restocking

Between January and the end of March 1988 some 850 trees were planted. In the 1989/1990 Annual Report it was stated that 300 street trees had been planted besides three large planting schemes of native trees and shrubs at
Devil’s Dyke Road in a joint project with Brighton and West Sussex County Council to landscape a new car park
Three Cornered Copse
Land near the Foredown Hospital site.
Unfortunately, a number of trees in the parks died despite constant watering.

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This flourishing London Plane tree in Mile Oak Road
owes its origins to the Plant a Tree in ’73 campaign.
 It produces enormous leaves in the summer.
Woodland Planting

1989 onwards Three Cornered Copse 3,000
1990 Foredown Allotments 3,000
1990-1991 Corner of Hangleton Road 300
                  Three Cornered Copse 2,400
                  Eastbrook Farm Allotments 600
1991-1992 Victoria Recreation Ground 550
                  Edgehill Open Space 867
                  Vale Park 580
1992-1993 Mile Oak Allotments 1,673
                  Hangleton Park 438
                  Benfield Valley 6,335
                  Greenleas Recreation Ground 2,095
1993-1994 Easthill Park 1,200
1994-1995 ‘Beeting Up’ replacing dead trees
1995-1996 Foredown Road 1,000
1996-1997 Greenleas 1,000
                  Benfield Valley 500
1997-1998 Benfield Valley 300
                  Knoll Recreation Ground 300
                  Palmeira Square / Adelaide Crescent 100    
              

On 2nd December 1990 National Tree Week was celebrated at Hove with the planting of around 1,700 trees in an area at the start of the new Dyke cycleway.

In December 1992 it was stated that Hove Council’s parks department looked after 5,700 street trees and 4,000 park trees.

In March 1993 a Swedish whitebeam was planted next to West Blatchington windmill to mark the 50th anniversary of the Trefoil Guild.

Hove’s Tree Strategy

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Autumn colours on the edge of the Village Green in 2002.
In the early 1990s there were 5,844 street trees in Hove and Portslade – the few very large trees being concentrated in Shirley Drive (28) Tongdean Road (26) Tongdean Avenue (17) and Holmes Avenue (2) – the latter being the last remnants of an avenue of elms that once led to Gibbet’s Farm.

New Church Road was the road with the highest number of trees; there were 185 of which 134 were classed as large.

The Drive was the next road with the most trees and there were 107 of which 71 were classed as large.

In November 1995 Alister Peters, aborist with Hove Council, launched a project for the long-term management of trees, both public and private. He said the area was the last bastion of the elm and Hove had some 2,000 specimens. But most were between 80 and 120 years old and showing signs of age. In The Drive most of the 100 trees were senile. Although elms were perfect for the area because they flourished on chalky soil and tolerated salt-laden winds, he did not intend to continue with such a mono-culture.

Most tree planting was undertaken by the Victorians and Edwardians and virtually none had been carried out from the First World War until 1970s when the campaign ‘Plant a tree in 73’ had only limited success. This was shortly followed by the drought year of 1976 that killed some trees while infection took its toll on others.

copyright © J.Middleton 
This magnificent horse chestnut tree
stood beside Portslade Railway Station
for many years. It was photographed in
May 2002 and felled in 2012.
Mr Peters said he intended to re-introduce young ‘big’ trees such as the lime and London plane to Hove’s wider roads and birch to smaller streets. Other new species had been introduced such as Turkish hazel, Italian elder and hornbeam. East Sussex County Council paid for the provision of six trees a year but the rest of the funding came from Hove Council.

In 1996 Hove Council spent £19,400 on a new shredder for use in parks and gardens. All the tree and shrub trimmings would be shredded for compost instead of being deposited in expensive landfill sites.

 In January 1996 it was stated that five Turkish elms would be planted on the north side of Portland Road near Sackville Road – the first of their kind to be planted in Hove.

As a result of high winds on 28/29 October 1996 fourteen mature trees were lost – either toppled or felled because they had become dangerous.

Sources

Proceedings of Committees. There is a set of these bound volumes at Hove Reference Library and another in East Sussex Record Office.
Newspaper articles
Official reports

Copyright © J.Middleton 2012
page layout by D.Sharp