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Mike's Blog - Day 185

A 15 year time lapse for you today.

In 2005 we had to fell a large beech tree in the garden as its crown had fallen apart, smashing most of the hand rails on the steps behind the monkey puzzle that lead down to the bamboo grove.

When we first cut it down, the main trunk was still quite solid, and we put log steps up so children could count the rings.

We counted the rings back from 2005 and reckoned the tree was a sapling in about 1848, which is probably about the same time the monkey puzzle was planted.

15 years later, of course, and it’s starting to decompose further and will eventually disappear, apart from its plastic signs and the concrete that secured the log steps.

By contrast the sleeper steps are mostly good and solid still and must be 50 years old. They were probably already quite an age when they came to the garden in the 1970s as used ex-railway sleepers. One was a bit rotten so we found an old one and cut it to replace it. The wood was bright red/orange and very hard, even for the chainsaw to cut.

It made me wonder what it was, and with a bit of Googling I reckon its from the “Red Iron Wood tree”, which grows in the swamps and rainforests of Western Africa. The timber is called Azobe or Ekki (Lophira alata). Apparently one of the few timbers that is so dense it doesn’t float, and if you want to knock a nail into it you have to pre-drill a hole. These trees must have been clear felled in their millions when the railroads were developing. These days sustainable timber is used for things like decking, bridges, lock gates and marine projects.

Finally, talking of timber use, someone has kindly sent a picture of one of the Bowes Museum “monkey puzzle” bowls.