Rhinefield Ornamental Drive is one of our favourite places for a walk in the New Forest. It may not have the oldest trees in the National Park, but it certainly has the largest.
Planting non-indigenous (exotic) plants and trees was de rigueur in Victorian Britain. In 1859, the year Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ was published; the Palm House at Kew Gardens was built; a Forest Nurseryman planted an abundance of huge conifers, azaleas and rhododendrons in the grounds of Rhinefield. He created the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive in the process. These exotic trees and plants added a new dimension to the New Forest. The Forest’s native common English oak, ash or beech trees are dwarfed by some of these upstarts from the New World.
Standing in the shadows of giants
The New Forest’s sequoia are still infants in comparison to their American grandparents. But they are still growing. Sequoia can live for 3,500 years.
The two largest specimens of giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the Forest stand next to each other alongside the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive. The highest stands 51 metres tall. Making it England’s tallest sequoia and the tallest tree in the New Forest.
You will also see some other large Yankee conifers including Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). Coast redwoods are the world’s tallest trees. If they could play a sport it would be basketball. The largest on record, Hyperion, meaning “The High-One” is a true skyscraper. Measuring a vertigo inducing 115.61 metres high.
Conifer is a Latin word, meaning “the one that bears (a) cone(s)”.
Goodbye to the Rhododendron
The giant sequoia are roughly the same height as Nelson’s Column and 2 metres longer than his favourite ship, HMS Agamemnon. The vessel was crafted from New Forest oak at Buckler’s Hard, near Beaulieu. The leaves and acorns of the oak tree can be deadly to horses, cattle, and sheep in large amounts. In the autumn pigs are allowed on the Forest to sweep the acorns and help stop the Forest livestock eating too many.
Oaks can get deadly diseases too. Phytophthora ramorum, also known as Sudden Oak Death (SOD) is not good news if you are an oak tree. Rhododendrons are not cheering it’s name either. The beautiful shrubs can act as a source of inoculum for new infections of the disease. So, most rhododendron in the Forest and in Rhinefield Ornamental Drive have been destroyed to help prevent them infecting the oaks and some of the other susceptible trees.
The Tall Trees Trail
You can see a lot of large trees when you take a stroll on the Tall Trees Trail. A 1.5 mile gentle walk through the trees of the Rhinefield Ornamental Drive.