THE arboretum at Val de la Mare supports more than 300 trees comprising over 180 species.
Where else in the world can you walk around and see so many trees from different continents in two hours?
Starting from the top car park on Grande Route de St Pierre, walk past the metal gate and take the narrower footpath to the left. You have miraculously arrived in Australasia, with the very indicative eucalyptus. It is amazing to think these trees were planted only 30 years ago and have reached up to 60 feet in height. We have added a few new specimens recently, one of which was planted by the Lieutenant-Governor, Lieutenant-General Sir John McColl. Just before leaving the zone there is a row of tree ferns, the leaf of which is New Zealand’s national emblem.
Before long you arrive in North America. There is a large Oregon maple as well as a number of horse chestnuts, with some of the more shrubby species still in flower. Two large evergreen trees stand head and shoulders above the surrounding trees and there are the almost unmistakable Wellingtonias. They are the world’s largest single living tree by volume and can reach heights of 270 feet. The largest specimens are estimated to weigh over 2,000 tons and comprise over 1,000 cubic metres of wood.
The next area is the American oak zone. They tend to be slower-growing and do not stand out from the crowd so much. The leaves are indicative of the common oaks we all know but tend to be bigger, longer or more deeply cut. However, they come into their own in the autumn, when their leaves can give wonderful displays of red, orange and brown.
The next stage of the journey is the birch zone, with the trees’ characteristic white or silvery flaking bark. In summer or winter their trunks really illuminate this secluded valley. Following the path clockwise, it takes you up a steady incline to give an elevated view from the top of the valley. Some steps then bring you down to the valley floor again, where you can meander through the birches and study the intricate patterns on their bark.
Back on the main route continue on down to the circular path that takes in the walnuts and hickories. This includes a valley with a wide selection of ferns and some large-specimen native trees. There is a Portaloo toilet here for your convenience before you retrace your footsteps back up towards the car park.
On the left-hand side, the Japanese zone emerges at the bottom of a sleepy valley. Turn hard left and up the steeper slope and you get a great view of the reservoir. Locating the steps on your right, the path leads you into the elm trial zone. This area was a trial plot to see which varieties resistant to Dutch elm disease would cope with our local conditions. The elevated path passes above the Japanese zone and soon enters the conifer zone, which is a bowl-shaped valley.
The path then encounters some pine trees which lead into the pine zone proper. There is a good variety of species but a disease specific to pines is beginning to take its toll. This has led to a number of trees declining, with some recent deaths.
The open nature of the path begins to close in to the leafier mixed-oak zone. Most of the trees here have the typical oak leaf shape but they may vary in size and texture. One stand-out tree is the bamboo-leaved oak, which looks nothing like an oak. This leafy lane passes over a small bridge returning you to the main ride and an alternative view of the tree ferns. Taking in the slight incline takes you back up to the car park and a well-earned rest.
Distance: 1.5 miles, just around the arboretum
Time: 1 hour 30 minutes, at a rate to appreciate the trees,
Difficulty: Footpaths are narrow and steep at times with steps. The main ride is pushchair and wheelchair friendly.
Toilets: Portaloo, a quarter of a mile from the top car park
Refreshments: None, but bring a drink at least or even a picnic.
Conrad Evans first started working for Men of the Trees in 1984. Now called Jersey Trees for Life, the charity’s main role is to plant trees, both commercially and for their own community-based charitable venture, the Jersey Hedgerow Campaign. Other work includes tree pruning, woodland management, tree appraisals and reports. For further details visit the website jerseytreesforlife.org, call the office on 857611, or call Conrad direct on 07797 713 32.Download/print a PDF of the walking map