Meet Peter Bourne

How would you describe what you do?

I’m volunteer curator for the national elm collection [which is in Brighton and Hove].

How long have you been doing that?

Since it started when I helped put it together in 1997.

Why is Preston Park significant?

Because it’s got champion elms as well as a wide range of varieties: it’s a living museum! And the park is the core of the city – a lot of documented history is here.

Which are the rarest elms?

There are numbered ‘clones’ – from Holland originally (the ones in Holland are long gone): 2 in the park which are named ulnus 297 and ulnus minor 28, they are the largest of their type and very rare. And there’s a Den Haag elm – also the largest of its type – at the top of the Coronation Garden.

How many different sorts of elm are there in the park?

About 30 different types. I have a full list and their names. As a matter of interest, Brighton and Hove has the only still-growing population of elms in the south of Britain. There are around 40,000 elms in the city – their population has doubled over the last 30-40 years.

What would you like to see in Preston Park in the future?

I’d like to see the gaps in the line of Wheatley elms [along the side of the wildflower beds and the petanque area] re-planted with elms, maybe a ‘New Horizon’ variety which has a degree of disease resistance.

What made you passionate about trees in the first place?

My dad started me off when I was about 5 – he showed me what a beech tree was . . . And noticing all the elms dying off – especially in the churchyard at my sister’s wedding – I was about 7 years old.

Will you do another tree walk in the park for us soon Peter?

Willingly!

Thank you.

Peter tells us that the damaged tree now measures 633cm around its trunk – the other twin measures 665cm. The trees, although they’re thought to be the oldest English elms, are not the biggest – that prize goes to an English elm in Australia which measures approx 925cm around its trunk and is 44 metres tall – about 140 ft. ‘Our’ Twins are about the fifth biggest.

We’ll let you know as soon as the tree walk is arranged.

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