The elms of Preston Park

Do you love the trees in Preston Park? Of course you do, and a fair few of them are wonderful elms of different varieties. We’ve had some fascinating information from Peter Bourne who is Brighton and Hove’s National Elm Collection Volunteer Curator. See below and read about our special link with Amsterdam and how the poor old damaged Preston Twin lives on . . .

Dear Members

This small newsletter points to the fundamental importance of elms in Preston Park and indeed throughout our Brighton and Hove. In 2007, a Dutch nurseryman started what would be a series of frequent visits to this city in order to propagate some of the most outstanding elms in our city. His name is Ronnie Nijboer and he is one of the co-owners of a large nursery in eastern Holland, near the town of Groningen. On his first visit he was shown a few sites in the city by Alister Peters (Arborist for the city and last Arborist for Hove Borough before its unification with Brighton). You may remember seeing Alister at a special tree presentation last November for the Friends group. Ronnie was accompanied by his assistant Koos and they collected small 30cm long cuttings in bundles for propagating at their Noordplant Nurseries in Holland. One of the cuttings they took came from what was the larger of the two Preston Twins which, after its horrifying branch drop last September, is now the smaller of the two trees as the gaping hole left from the tree wound on the right facing the tree removed 40cm from its girth circumference.

The cutting was taken back to Groningen where it was grafted onto a root stock of Ulmus minor (Field elm). Ronnie’s excellent grafting methods have meant that many cuttings he has taken have been propagated into sizeable saplings of which a few have ended up in tree collections in Europe; some in streets and parks in Amsterdam and a few have been returned for planting here. The cutting from the Preston Twin became a striking 3m tall sapling with a girth of around 40cm in diameter. It was acquired by Amsterdam City Council for a farewell ceremony for one of their most valid Elm Disease Tree Officers, Debora, on November 9th 2017 and planted on November 30th 2017 on a grass verge, alongside the Bernard Zweerskade, opposite Rossinistraat in Amsterdam. The tree is visible on Google Maps Street View.

On the same day, a Belgian elm (Ulmus x hollandica ‘Belgica’) was also planted by the City Council of Amsterdam making a rather symbolic gesture of unity between Brighton and Hove and Amsterdam. Amsterdam City Council is very keen on twinning Brighton and Hove with their city and the idea is already in the pipeline here.

Ronnie is still collecting cuttings from trees here and as I already said he has returned some as saplings for later planting in the city here. Some of our elms are extremely rare worldwide of which Preston Park is one of the showpieces of the collection. In all there are 120 sites in Brighton and Hove which show rare and endangered elms within a population of over 40,000 trees. Ronnie has stated in his recent email to me that “In my opinion it is important to rejuvenate the B&H elm collection. The City has many magnificent specimens of rare elm types and historic elm clones.” In 2010 and 2011, experts from Holland, Belgium, France, Germany and Italy visited elms in Preston Park and elsewhere in the city area and stated the importance of our collection both nationally and to the international community. Ronnie, like myself, wishes to see a continuing propagation of our elms for future generations.

Below are pictures sent by Ronnie showing the process from taking the cuttings in Preston Park through to the sapling being planted by Amsterdam City Council. Ronnie wishes to meet with Friends of Preston Park and perhaps we can convince him to make a presentation for you all in the near future.

Peter Bourne (National Elm Collection Volunteer Curator, Brighton and Hove, UK)

Koos adjusting long arm secateurs to prune off a cutting for Noordplant propagation back in Holland. 2007. With Alister Peters (then Brighton & Hove City Council Arborist and now working for Connicks Tree Care)

Koos removing the cutting for Noordplant from what was then the champion Preston Twin, English elm (Ulmus procera) in Europe in 2007

Debora (and a local Dutch character) admiring the rapidly grown Preston Twin cutting on the day of presentation, November 9th 2017

Debora with her tree after planting at the end of November, 2017 along the Bernard Zweerskade, opposite Rossinistraat, Amsterdam, Holland

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Wreath making pics


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Fireworks in the park

These fabulous photos of the fireworks display on November 1st were sent to us by Mark Findlay. Thanks Mark!

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Winners of the photo competition

Daisy Mason – WINNER

At today’s AGM, we announced the winners of our ‘Four Seasons’ photo competition:

  • Spring: Rose Jones
  • Summer: Andy Jeavons
  • Autumn: Daisy Mason
  • Winter: Ian King

Each winner received a cup and a signed copy of Mark Nelson’s European Stories 1987-2017.

The overall winner was Daisy Mason, whose entry you can see above.

You can see all the shortlisted photos under the Photos tab.

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Chair’s Report 2016-17

FoPP AGM 2017 Chair’s report

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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?


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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The Rose Garden gets your vote

You’ll remember that there was a vote (did you vote? If so, thank you) to determine which of the two projects to spend available funds on: the Rose Garden or the Coronation Garden. Well, we can reveal that the result was a very close-run thing indeed! The Parks Project team have just issued this press release:

We can promise you a Rose Garden!

The herbaceous borders in the Rose Garden at Preston Park will be blooming lovely next summer after winning a public vote for their restoration.

Residents were asked to choose between two potential projects after Brighton & Hove City Council secured around £150,000 funding from car parking fees and local developers to be spent in Preston Park.

The proposed projects were restoring the Coronation Garden and replanting the herbaceous borders at the edge of Rose Garden.

Around 250 people voted and the results were very close with the Rose Garden winning by just six votes. Work on the garden, which includes clearing existing planting, redesigning and replanting the borders and installing heritage benches in the bays, is due to start soon and be completed by Summer 2018.

There’s also good news for those who voted for the Coronation Garden as the council is hoping to have enough funding left over to begin restoration work next year.

Cllr Gill Mitchell, chair of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee said: “It’s really important that local people are involved in helping making decisions over how money is spent in their local parks, and I’d like to thank those who voted.

“The results showed strong support for both projects so I’m very pleased that the funding is likely to cover both the cost of work on the Rose Garden and the beginning of work on the Coronation Garden.

“We will continue to seek opportunities to attract more funding for our beautiful and much loved city parks.”

The public vote, and projects put forward are part of the Preston Park Conservation Management Plan, a joint initiative with the Friends of Preston Park and the council’s Cityparks department.

The council is hoping to attract further funding to support additional projects identified in the Management Plan.

Great news!

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Green flag award

We are proud to say that the park has been awarded a Green Flag again this year. This is not a rubber-stamp affair, but properly assessed by experts with exacting criteria. The committee of the Friends of Preston Park was involved in the process.

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Pride arrangements: a reminder

A reminder that Pride is currently setting up for their event next weekend. Here’s the schedule for how the park will be affected:

Sunday 30th July: The area in BLUE will be fenced off to allow the load in of the stage to start.

Monday 31st July: The fence line will start to go up around the park. During this time the whole park is accessible but we do advise caution as there will be lots of vehicle movement.

Tuesday 1st August: The fence line will be completed. Area within the red fence line is closed to the public. As local residents ourselves we know people cut across the park to get to work. You will be able to go through the park from north (GATE Y) to the south (GATE B) every morning between 06:00-08:00 Tuesday 1st August-Friday 4th August.

Wednesday 2nd August: At 18:00 the GREEN area will be closed to the public.
The south east end of the park including the basketball courts, children’s playground, tennis courts, bowling green, rose garden will be open. There will be fencing going up but you will still be able to use these areas.

Thursday 3rd August: At 18:00 the basketball court (ORANGE) will be closed.

Friday 4th August: At 18:00 the children’s playground, tennis courts and bowling green’s (PINK) will be closed.

There will be fencing around the rose garden on Saturday 5th August to protect the owners; the Rotunda cafe will be accessible throughout Pride. After the event, the team work really hard to get the park open and back to full use as soon as possible and we reverse the phases. We will be opening the children’s playground ready for use on Sunday morning. The GREEN area will be open by Monday morning.

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Preston Open Day – how unlucky can you get?

Preston Open Day was so open it let all the rain in – probably the first we’d had in a month or so. This may have been good for the grass but no good for the picnic. Thanks for those volunteers and helpers shown here who braved the weather for an hour or so before we gave up on outside activities.

Consolation was a visit from the High Sheriff of East Sussex, Maureen Chowan, second right, who joined us for the Open Day and made us all feel special. Sorry we couldn’t have provided more of a spectacle but this is England and we take these setbacks on the chin.

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