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Minehead - Parks Walk 2

Welcome to The Parks Walks Arboretum.

On this trail find out what part holly trees play with the manufacture of the sticky bomb, the hidden muskets in an oak tree and the May Day morning meeting place of the Minehead Hobby Horse.

The approach to creating these trails is likened to a skimming stone, stopping at several segments of the park and dropping interesting facts, myths and tales throughout, and all pivoting on the trees.

To view, travel to the trailhead at the lower or town end of each park and the first chapter will reveal. The walks are designed to read aloud to family and friends and to embellish your experience of this place.

Allow an hour at an amble.

All parks are flat and level throughout.

Updated 2020 in parallel with the Hidden History town trails.
Directions - This trail begins at the middle park entrance accessed from Periton Lane, Minehead TA24 8EJ What3words address ///fruits.headings.pokers 51.206811, -3.4893470
Chapter one


These parks are in fact an Arboretum, a garden of trees, they come from throughout the world as well as locally and the stories and anecdotes I have listed reflects this international nature. There are also some fabulous shrubs and beds, but in the interest of my commission I have focused on the trees, with the last section having a list of all trees present in this park.
Chapter two


This park was a water meadow in 1971, with many of the current specimens predating this conversion, the large Crab Apple tree to your right with stunning blossom in spring, is a good example of this.

In the book of Genesis, the Serpent offered Eve the Apple, and from that point forth human kind changed irrevocably. The apple has become the symbol of forbidden knowledge, temptation and immorality, though the fruit itself is not actually specified in the book as an Apple. It is thought that the Apple came into the story through a Latin mistranslation as the word for evil is quite similar. Apple is spelled 'malum' with an accent over the letter 'a' whereas evil is the same but without the accent. Early religious paintings often depict Adam and Eve with an Apple but illustrations prior to this period generally have other fruits.

The Adam's Apple or the larynx, which is a throat protrusion, was apparently caused by this same forbidden fruit getting lodged in Adam's throat.

One old English apple tradition is to throw an apple pip into an open fire whilst saying your lover's name, if it pops then this will come true, if not then nothing will come of it. You may also like to read about Wassailing the apple tree, which is a very strange traditional custom still celebrated with gusto here in west Somerset.
Directions - The hard path which runs through the park will trigger all the chapters in this park. Walk past the large Weeping Willow on your left to the next smaller tree, a Liquid Amber.
Chapter three

Liquid Amber

This is the Liquid Amber Tree, a Sweet Gum which is very common in southern eastern USA. It is commonly used for furniture, with many applications from flooring to interior trim of railroad carriages. But the name derives from its sap or resin which is gum like, amber in colour and apparently sweet in taste.

The wood is very compact and fine-grained, with the heartwood tinged red, when cut into planks they are often marked transversely with attractive black belts. It has a tendency to warp when dried so is often backed with a more solid timber, and has been in the UK from the late 1600's.

One striking and identifying feature of the Liquid Amber are the plates on the bark, if you look at branch ends towards the leafing sections you will see odd flat bark plates about the size of butterfly's wings. The Liquid Amber has many names, one of which is Alligatorwood perhaps this is due to these unusual plates.
Directions - Continue along the path to the bench, the next large tree on the left is the Dawn Redwood.
Chapter four

Chinese Red Dawn

This is sometimes called the Southern Beech or Raoul and was introduced to the UK from China in 1913 which is surprisingly late. It is also the national tree of Japan, commonly planted around temples and shrines, and in 1894 Sargent published a book called The Forest Flora of Japan, and records a feudal lord who was too poor to donate a stone lantern at the funeral of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu, but requested instead to plant an avenue of these trees so 'that future visitors might be protected from the heat of the sun.'

The offer was accepted, and the avenue which still exists today is 40 miles long and 'has not its equal in stately grandeur.'
Directions - Continue along the path, the next chapter will reveal with a stand of Birch trees to your right.
Chapter five

Birch Trees Whitecross lane

To your right by the roadside stand three Silver Birches, these are at the junction of Whitecross Lane where the three Minehead Hobby Horses dance at dawn on 1st May.

This traditional May day activity is still held strong today, with Horses constructed from Willow and covered in both hessian and rags. At first light the three horses set out from far corners of the town, dancing and bowing to all in the early hours. They then congregate here before carrying on their mischief throughout Minehead and Dunster on the days that follow. Minehead is one of a handful towns in the UK which still maintains this peculiar tradition.

In India, the Birch holds great historical significance with the cultures of the northern territories where the thin bark, which naturally comes off in winter, was extensively used as writing paper.

Celebrations during the festival of Samhain (now Halloween) signified the start of the Celtic year, where purification was very important. Bundles of birch twigs were used to drive out the spirits of the old year, a tradition which would evolve into the 'beating the bounds' ceremonies in local parishes, and also Burning the Ashen Faggot' – see parks walk Number One.

Placing Birch branches in a circle with the points towards the centre would enable forest devils to appear, whereas Birch rods were historically used to purify criminals of their sins. Repeated beatings would expunge their mischievous evil spirits, chase them away and cleanse their souls.
Directions - Continue along the path to the next bench beneath an Ash tree. Note - you can refresh this page whenever the distance counter gets a little sleepy or use the 'help' button on the bar below.
Chapter six

Golden and Purple Maples

Maple is often tapped for its sap which is then boiled to produce maple syrup, it takes about 40 litres of maple sap to make 1 litre of syrup, and is generally affected by boiling the syrup slowly for quite some time.

The timber is also prized for use in musical instruments and seen as a quality 'tone-wood' with a brighter sound than Mahogany. Violins, guitars, cellos and double bases have many parts made of Maple from fretboards to body construction.

But Maples are perhaps most famous for their stunning autumn foliage, with many countries having leaf-watching traditions. In Japan their custom is called 'Momijigari' and in Korea it is called 'Danpung-Nori'. New Hampshire (USA) visitors follow local press reports providing bulletins and guidance for this spectacular phenomenon. The area becomes a popular tourism destination following the foliage as the turn of colour progresses down the country.

Directions - Continue along the path to the silver Birch with the large burr at the next bench.
Chapter seven


The mature birch tree on your left has a sizable burr growing at chest height, it is thought that these occur due to insect infestation or disease which corrupts the tree creating a confusion of folds in the grain over which the natural tree bark still grows.

The timber inside is highly prized for its beautiful patterns in the grain, sometimes called 'wild grain' which fold and turn unpredictably.

Burrs are often sought after for mallets and bowl making as the over folding of grain make them both hard and resistant to splitting.

Large burrs in Redwood trees have been known to grow to almost 8m in diameter, and poachers have been known to chain saw these off to sell on illegally.

In local folklore the burr from three Oak trees provided buttons for the Giant of Grabbist' breeches, with the centre of each burr seeded by the Devil himself. The story goes that he was trying to steal the heart of the tree by poking an icy finger through the bark, and the burr is a callous or bruise from his devious intervention.
Directions - Continue along the path to the next bench. Note - you can refresh this page whenever the distance counter gets a little sleepy or use the 'help' button on the bar below.
Chapter eight

Copper Beech

The nuts of the Beech tree were often referred to as Mast in years gone by and were given to pigs as fodder, or left on the woodland floor for them to forage. These common woodland grazing rights were called Rights of Pannage, or Rights of Mast. They are referred to in the Domesday book and are still observed in the New Forest today. Historically the fee or payment required for these rights was often a pig.

Incidentally the only surviving silent Sherlock Holmes film (one of eight made) was called The Copper Beeches. Filmed in 1912 and actually supervised by the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself.

Standing in The Coole Park Estate in County Galway (Ireland) there lives a purple leaved Copper Beech called 'The Autograph Tree', initials of many of the leading literary figures of the 1930's carved their names into the bark. These included William Butler Yeats, Edward Martyn, George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge and Sean O'Casey. Today the Copper Beech has a strong iron fence to prevent new autographs covering the old.
Chapter nine

Weeping Willow

Willows come in many varieties and over arching this stream here is a Weeping Willow, the White Willow so called due to the white underside of its leaf is commonly used for cricket bats. Extracts from other Willow varieties have been used to help Rheumatism and 'diseases of dampness' perhaps due to its natural affiliation to watery locations.

In both bark and leaf is the active compound Salicin whose usefulness has been known for some time, the healer and philosopher Pliny the Elder, who observed the eruption of Mount Vesuvius around 79AD noted the medicinal uses of Willow with a distilment of the bark being useful to lower the temperature of fevers.

A large Willow variety is commonly known as Crack Willow or Widows Willow, these names refer to its tendency to drop branches without notice and steal husbands from their wives.
Directions - Continue along the path to the large Oak at the end.
Chapter ten


Old Folk Ryme

Fairy Folk
Are in old Oaks

In recent years a large mature Oak came down in a storm near Crowcombe, which is about 12 miles East of Minehead, when it fell the tree crashed with two main limbs breaking open, and as they cut the tree up they found hidden in the fork of the main trunk a civil war musket, most likely hidden there in the 17th Century.

Oak Apple Day or Royal Oak Day was a formal public holiday celebrated in England on 29 May to commemorate the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660. The story goes that the future King Charles II had escaped the roundhead army at the battle of Worcester (1651) by hiding in the branches of an Oak tree. After his restoration it became traditional to wear a sprig of Oak on his birthday, failure to do so risked being pelted with birds eggs or thrashed with nettles.

Parliament declared 29 May a public holiday in 1660:

'Parliament had ordered the 29 of May, the King's birthday, to be forever kept as a day of thanksgiving for our redemption from tyranny and the King's return to his Government, on entering London that day.'

This public holiday Oak Apple Day was formally abolished in 1859, but in some parts of the country today it is still celebrated with alternate names of Shick Shack Day and Nettle Day.
Chapter eleven

The Earl of Shrewsbury

The legend of the Chained Oak of Shrewsbury relates that on an Autumn night The Earl of Shrewsbury was returning to his home at Alton Towers when an old woman suddenly appeared in the road. The coach stopped to find why she was there, the old woman then begged for a coin. The Earl cruelly dismissed her, so the old woman placed a curse on him, saying 'For every branch on the Old Oak Tree here that falls, a member of the Earl's family will die.'

The Earl dismissed this and carried on his way, however that same night a violent storm caused a single branch from the Old Oak Tree to break and fall, a member of the Earl's family suddenly and mysteriously died before the sunrise the next day. The Earl ordered his servants to chain every branch together to prevent other branches from falling, and to this day the Oak tree remains wrapped in chains.
Directions - Continue along the path with the stream to your left.
Chapter twelve


The Holly tree was apparently once planted near houses to ward off lightning, though its more likely positioned for its strong and impenetrable hedge qualities keeping livestock and people at bay.

The bark of the Holly tree can be turned into a substance called 'Birdlime', which is banned in the EU due to its cruelty, although the Valencian region of Spain still traditionally snare Song Thrushes in this manner. The preparation includes boiling the bark for 10-12 hours then rinsing through with water until an incredibly sticky and odorous substance is made. This is then smeared on the lower branches of trees, when the birds land in it they become trapped in the goo.

During the 2nd world war birdlime was used in the manufacture of an anti tank grenade called 'The Sticky Bomb'. There were several field trials which resulted in a report stating they did not stick to muddy or dusty tanks, although distressingly the grenades often got stuck to the soldiers' uniforms instead. The Ordnance Board of the War Department did not approve this grenade for use by the British Army, however Winston Churchill intervened and ordered them set into production, around 2.5 million were manufactured.
Directions - Continue along the path.
Chapter thirteen

The Arboretum Inventory

This inventory was created with generous guidance from Chris Adams a former manager and gardener of these parks in 2014.

Thanks are due to The Exmoor Natural History Society who's original pamphlet this project replicates.

Thanks also to Minehead Bid and Minehead Bay for recent financial support to bring these trails up to date in spring 2020.

Initial works in 2014 were supported by the Minehead Development Trust, The Minehead Vision Project, and West Somerset District Council.

Trees in the park before the pathway to Lower Park and the A39 Porlock road.

On the left side

Section Two – from Periton Lane towards Woodcombe and Porlock Road crossing.

Left hand side of path

1. Mount Etna Broom (not rooted in Park)
2. Liquid Amber
3. Black Catkined Willow
4. Weeping Willow
5. Alder
6. Liquid Amber
7. Chinese ‘Dawn Redwood'
8. Alder
9. Beech
10. Field Maple
11. 3 Spindles (Japanese)
12. Swamp Cypress
13. Alders
14. Golden Ash
15. Photinia group x 3
16. Field Maple
17. Royal Fern
18. Oak
19. Persian Ironwood
20. Chilean Firebush
21. Variegated Holly
22. Weeping Birch
23. Cut Leafed Alder (by stream)
24. Weeping Willow
25. Field Maple
26. Dogwood
27. Scots Pine
28. Japanese Red Cedar
29. Norway Spruce
30. Copper Beech x 2
31. Oak
32. Gunnera (Giant Rhubarb)
33. Goat Willow (Cut back)
34. Alders

Right hand side of path.

1. Crab Apples (large trees)
2. Photinia
3. Cotoneaster trees
4. Red Maple
5. Baumann's Chestnut
6. Flowering Thorn
7. Sycamore (Nizets)
8. Cappadocian Maple
9. Silver Maples
10. Lobel's Maple
11. Norway Maples var. dissectum
12. Ash-leaved Maple
13. Maples
14. Tulip Tree
15. Worlee's Sycamore
16. Red Maples
17. Tulip Tree
18. Japanese Sarawa Cypress
19. Birches x 3 (opposite Whitecross Lane)
20. Norway Maple ‘Princeton Gold'
21. Sweet Chestnut
22. Cappadocian Maple
23. Red Oak
24. Purple Norway Maple
25. Golden Cappadocian Maple
26. Drummond's Norway Maple x 3
27. Japanese Red Cedar
28. Silver Maple (c24 yrs of age)
29. Sycamore ‘Prince Hangery' (c34 yrs)
30. Rowan x 2
31. Field Maple
32. Oaks
33. Holly
Chapter fourteen

The End

I hope you have enjoyed this park, and thank you for reading, there are more details about my diverse works at www.jelley.info

All images are taken by myself and are published exclusively for these walks.

All rights reserved 2021

Christopher Jelley
Directions - The next park walk is No 6, hit the back button on your browser and select this trail to continue.
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