Can’t see the trees for the wood – a memorial to Prince William’s birthday in Sevenoaks
Prince William celebrated his birthday today (21 June) but did you know some cherry trees were planted in Sevenoaks to mark his birth 38 years ago?
They are in the grounds of West Heath School, where his mother Princess Diana was a pupil, and can be found on the border of one of the games fields. It is the time of year when the four trees are just starting to bear some fruit.
The trees originally stood out on their own and had plaques saying what they were for, but, sadly, the trees can hardly be seen now as they have been swallowed up by the flora that has encroached on all sides of the playing fields on the West Heath estate. Also, the plaques were among the items that were put up for auction when the old school officially closed down in 1997, coincidentally on the same day Princess Diana died.
Although it was thought the Kent Men of the Trees planted the Cherry Trees to celebrate the birth of Prince William, The Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for the Sevenoaks District, disagrees that this was the only reason.
The compendium says: “In 1998 all the contents of the house were sold by auction including the plaques that had marked the cherry trees planted to commemorate Princess Diana’s engagement, marriage and the Princes’ births.”
So, it seems the trees were planted for more than just William’s birthday. There is no reference to the planting on the Kent Men of the Trees website. They have been contacted to see if they can confirm the reason for the trees, but so far there has been no response from the organisation.
A Medlar tree was also planted by the old West Heath School to commemorate the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, but this, like the marriage, failed to survive.
When Prince William and Kate Middleton married the School that now occupies the West Heath estate planted the same kind of tree which is still thriving today. Each side of the tree are rose bushes planted to commemorate the births of Prince George and Princess Charlotte.
The West Heath estate has a long history of trees and flora. The garden has rhododendron and azaleas which date back to the 1790s and many examples of this can be found in an American Garden.
A Japanese styled garden with a pond and bridge was also added to the estate, when it was Ashgrove House, in 1905 but this has fallen into disrepair and is now overgrown after being hit by a bomb during the second world war.
Several Wellingtonias survive as mature trees. It believed these date from the 1850s and, according to The Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for the Sevenoaks District, are early examples of the introduction of this species into England in 1852.