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Our trip to Bedgebury and Hastings

We visited Bedgebury Pinetum on Sunday 20 Sept 2015. Deep in the Kent countryside, and an estate from medieval times, the collection of trees began to develop under its owners in the 1840's. In 1925, the estate was acquired by the Forestry Commission in collaboration with Kew to establish the UK resource of conifers for conservation and research. The Pinetum is now the largest in the world, with over 12,000 trees of over 1,800 species, and is part of the much larger Bedgebury Forest.

In part, the collection provides a knowledge-base for the vast number of uses of timber for everything from construction to paper.

A key additional purpose of the collection is to assist in the conservation of conifers. Worldwide,  around 400 species of conifer need conservation, and some are almost extinct in the wild.

There are some spectacular trees - numerous Redwoods (Sequoia) - the species which is the world's tallest, and the spectacularly fast-growing Leylandii, hated by so many neighbours, but here grouped to form a long hedge (actually, a wall), over 130 feet tall and still growing. Click on 'Trip Leylandii Hedge' in the left menu for a photo that 'pans' from vertical to horizontal inside the hedge.

However, the visitor experience is not just about conifers. Over summer, Bedgebury has hosted an outdoors exhibition about the Areng Valley, one of Cambodia’s most socially and ecologically sensitive forest areas, yet at the highest risk of total loss. Home to rare and globally endangered wildlife, and to communities that depend on the valley’s natural resources, the entire habitat may be flooded if officials proceed with the controversial Chaey Areng hydropower project.

We rounded off our trip with a visit to Hastings. We scattered as the mood took us, some of us enjoying the sea-front, which on this warm and sunny day was reported to feel like the Riviera, while others watched boats from the commercial fishing fleet being pulled up the beach, and others explored the narrow lanes of cafes and antique shops.

A great trip, on a lovely day! Thank you for organising it Nick and Jill.

Photos: John Wilkinson at Ally Pally (other than the colour image of the net drying sheds in Hastings, and the panned one of the Leylandii hedge).