Shortgrove Estate, Saffron Walden, Essex

Take a leaf out of Capability Brown's book

Last year we celebrated the tercentenary of the birth of Capability Brown, next year we will mark the 200th anniversary of Humphry Repton's death: both men were pioneers of the naturalistic landscape style, incorporating trees planted singly or in a clump.

Looking at a deciduous woodland through the seasons can be like looking at a constantly changing mosaic, especially where there is mixed or natural planting as opposed to monoculture. There is also something very powerful about the use of trees along an avenue: it gives it a status as well as providing shade and dappled sunlight in bright weather. And when trees are lost through disease, age or weather, the effect on a view can be hugely significant.

However, the benefit of trees is not purely aesthetic. Planting trees is one of the best ways of reducing our carbon footprint. They can reduce heating bills by acting as a windbreak around a property; they also absorb ozone. Moreover, we can harvest them, use them to make various products or burn them for heat and fuel. In death they support hundreds more species than they do in life.

While we can cheat nature a little bit with mature transplanted trees, it can take a century or more to establish a really good wooded landscape: the very best houses are always in a mature setting. These properties are home to some of the country's finest specimen trees and parkland.


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