Red deer grazing with the cattle at Studley Deer Park near Ripon
Red deer grazing with the cattle at Studley Deer Park near Ripon

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Route No. 308 - Wednesday 19 August 2009
Our Ancient Tree Hunt,
Studley Deer Park, Fountains Abbey - 8km
Ripon . . . .

Ordnance Survey route map on the Landranger series map base.
View the route in Google Earth

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer 299 Ripon & Boroughbridge at 1:25000


Oak tree at Studley Deer park
Oak tree that we recorded at Studley Deer park

Oak tree at Studley Deer park
Oak tree that we recorded at Studley Deer park

From there we followed a public footpath up the hillside to record details of an old oak tree just off the path at map ref. SE 28343 69110 (this is a map ref. from my gps - it's important to have an accurate fix on the exact tree so that someone else can find it easily) The upper branches of the tree are dying back showing that the tree is well into the last third of its life.

Today my friend , Jim, and I decided on a visit to Studley Deer Park near Ripon where there are many magnificent trees in the parkland. I have been a supporter of the Ancient Tree Hunt for some time and we planned to record a few trees to add to their database. Anyone who spots a big fat old tree can add details of it to the Ancient Tree Hunt web site. We parked in the car park near the lake at map ref. SE278691. The deer park adjoins the grounds of Fountains Abbey and the property is managed by the National Trust and English Heritage. We walked around the edge of the lake and crossed the footbridge over the River Skell at the outlet from the lake.

Oak tree at Studley Deer park
Oak tree that we recorded at Studley Deer park

Pond near the edge of the deer park
Pond near the edge of the deer park

Path around the outside of the deer park
Path around the outside of the deer park

Here we turned left again down a wooded valley to a for across the River Skell. There is a footbridge just upstream of the ford but we used the ford and crossed completely dry. The river has disappeared. It goes underground about 1.5km upstream and only flows after wet weather.

The tree is growing in a large field where both cattle and red deer were grazing. After recording details of the tree we continued up the slope to the gate house at the edge of the deer park at map ref. SE285685. At the gate house we turned left to follow a path a round the edge of some woodland for about 500m to a junction in the track at map ref. SE291686.

The gate house at the edge of the deer park
The gate house at the edge of the deer park

Chicken-of-the-woods fungus
Chicken-of-the-woods fungus

The dry bed of the river Skell at the ford
The dry bed of the river Skell at the ford

Japanese water balsam growing by the path
Japanese water balsam growing by the path

One of the stone bridges across the river Skell
One of the stone bridges across the river Skell

Originally when the parkland was laid out there were seven wooden bridges designed to look like a Chinese garden.

Once we were across the ford we turned left to follow the path up the valley back to the deer park. This is part of the "Seven Bridges Walk". Nowadays there are only 5 stone bridges over the meandering river. Originally when the parkland was laid out there were seven wooden bridges designed to look like a Chinese garden.

One of the stone bridges across the river Skell
One of the stone bridges across the river Skell

Two fallow deer on a ledge across the valley
Two fallow deer on a ledge across the valley

Outlet weir from the lake in the deer park
Outlet weir from the lake in the deer park

We followed the path back to the end of the lake and from there we took the road through the park towards the north exit.

Along the way we came to a very large tall sweet chestnut tree(tree no. 3315) that we had recorded for the Ancient Tree Hunt a couple of years ago.

Sweet chestnut tree at Studley Deer park
Sweet chestnut tree by the river Skell in Studley Deer park

Looking back to the lake in the deer park
Looking back to the lake in the deer park

Fallow deer stags grazing together befor the rut starts in October
Fallow deer stags grazing together before the rut starts in October

Champion wild cherry tree at Studley Deer park
Champion wild cherry tree at Studley Deer park

I believe it is the largest girth(6.42m) and therefore probably the oldest tree of its kind in Britain, now sadly approaching the end of its long life. There is a cherry tree in Cumbria with a girth of 5.3m but nothing else comes close. We left the oak and the cherry tree behind and headed across the parkland past the herds of red deer and fallow deer to the road leading through the park to St. Mary's Church.

After about 600m we came to two striking trees close to one another. There is a large healthy oak(tree no. 3316) at map ref. SE 2801 6980, and an ancient wild cherry(tree no. 4853) now with only one branch still bearing any leaves. At first the oak seems much the more impressive tree, but on reflection this amazing old cherry tree impresses me more.

Ancient Oak tree at Studley Deer park
Ancient Oak tree at Studley Deer park

Fallow deer grazing in Studley deer park
Fallow deer grazing in Studley deer park

St Mary's Church in Studley Deer Park
St Mary's Church in Studley Deer Park

Ancient sweet chestnut  tree at Studley Deer park
Ancient sweet chestnut near St Mary's Church

We had hardly set off again along the road when we saw a huge old sweet chestnut tree(tree no. 32310) down the slope on the opposite side of the road to the church. We just had to stop again and record its details, but when I checked on the Ancient Tree Hunt web site it was already recorded.

Here the road is lined with lime trees and just before we reached the church we noticed one of the lime trees, at map ref. SE 27618 69311 is much bigger than the rest so we stopped to make a note of its details.

Lime tree at Studley Deer park
Lime tree at Studley Deer park

Ancient sweet chestnut near St Mary's Church  tree at Studley Deer park
Ancient sweet chestnut near St Mary's Church

Leaves and this year's fruit of an ancient sweet chestnut  tree at Studley Deer park
Leaves and this year's fruit of an ancient sweet chestnut tree at Studley Deer park

Fountains Hall near the west gate to the abbey site
Fountains Hall near the west gate to the abbey site

From there we followed the path back along the water gardens to the deer park and the end of our tree hunting walk. It had been a very pleasant day out. We had walked a little under 8km but with our lunch break and many stops to admire and record details of the trees it had taken us around four hours. Our route home took us through Boroughbridge where we called at Morrisons supermarket cafe for a bacon roll.

We left the deer park at the exit near the obelisk, map ref. SE273692. We followed the path around the outer wall of the deer park to the Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre at map ref. SE272686. We stopped for our lunch break at the visitor centre cafe where to our horror they had stopped doing bacon and egg breakfasts at 11.30am. After our break, just a coffee, we made our way down to the abbey ruins. It's a really impressive sight no matter how many times I come here.

Path to the visitor centre outside the deer park
Path to the visitor centre outside the deer park

Fountains Abbey
Fountains Abbey