- Specie: London Plane (platanus × acerifolia)
- Location: Bath Spa, UK
Having spent the last week in the UK, it is hard not to be truly impressed with the London Plane (platanus x acerifolia). In the ‘old world’ this magnificent specie has claimed its domain, lining most streets in its namesake city, spreading its wide and robust crown over the sidewalks and gardens.
But in Bath Spa, a town just a short train ride from Paddington Station on the Great Western Railway, stand two extraordinary plane trees that are not only venerable and aged, but have become a part of the fabric of the town and its people. In fact, I think they helped built the town that Bath is today, much like the nearby Abby or even the roman baths that gave the town its name.
Bath is beautiful, as you’d expect from any self respecting town in the English countryside. There are historic buildings, cobblestone paths and quaint pubs (I really liked ‘the Boater’ for its 80s soundtrack and resident mascot – a spaniel).
Of course, there were plenty of trees, ranging from maples, tulip trees and horse chestnuts, to hollies and birches.
But none were as magnificent or as impactful as the two majestic plane trees that were not only massive and old, they physically defined the town.
I found the first of the two plane trees at one end of a narrow pedestrian street a stone’s throw from the town centre. I was awestrucked when I turned a corner and came face to face with a massive tree that occupied an entire square. It was like the town built itself around the tree, which returned to the townspeople a natural sanctuary, complete with shelter from the sun and rain.
It is hard to say which came first, the tree or the town, but this surely could not have happened without some forward thinking treelovers.
A similar plane tree occupies another square at the other end of town, which is home to a farmers market on the Sunday I was there.
The location of this individual is just down the street from the Jane Austin House, where you can have tea with Mr Darcy, who in a portrait on the wall looks suspiciously like Colin Firth.
In Bath, it’s also worth visiting the Parade Gardens, just a strolled from the Abby, where many tribute trees – a medler and at least one cherry – commemorate less idyllic times.
There is also the river side walk lined with maples and tulip trees (with their idiosyncratic leaves) along the Avon.
One entrance to the river walk is located on one end of the historic Pulteney Bridge, a few metres from the Boater, which is a perfect start (or end) to any walk.