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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees

The other day I dragged my mum, Emi and the WonderDog off in search of a couple of freaky beech trees. I had a vague recollection of having stumbled across them on my travels a lifetime ago in Parkanaur Forest Park, here in beautiful County Tyrone. I'd bored my family with stories about how these trees grew the wrong way up, and were a definite rarity in the world of all things botanical.

I'll admit that I got some of the story twisted. They've got roots at the end of their branches, I'd said. And they grow upside down, and back to front. 

So, okay, I'll level with you: they don't exactly grow back to front or upside down, but they are genuine 24-carat freaks of nature.

Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees
Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees



Instead of growing up towards the sky the branches grow down towards the ground, and when the leaves open they create a wonderful green tent-like space within. There are two of them growing side by side here in the grounds of the park.

Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees
Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees

Fagus sylvatica var. tortuosa, known variously as the parasol beech, the dwarf beech or the twisted beech is a very rare thing. There are thought to be less than 1500 older specimens such as these left in all of Europe. 

Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees
Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees

Their branches are twisted, and the trunk resembles the tortured vertebrae of some deformed giant.

Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees
Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees
And all the light within this tented space is tinged with the fresh green of its newly opened leaves. It's a magical place to stand and contemplate the world. In here you could easily believe in the all-encompassing powers of the Green Man.

Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees
Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees


These two specimens were found growing in the woods, a short distance from the house, in 1885. Thankfully the folk who discovered them appreciated their rarity and worth. They were carefully moved to their present position, where they were replanted as part of the ornamental park around the old manor house. 

Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees
Parkanaur Forest Park Parasol Beech Trees
Back in 1885 when they were dug out of the forest they were said to have been about 6 to 8 feet high, and people reckoned they must have been about 60 years of age, which would mean that they'd come into being in about 1825. Today they are 12 to 15 feet high, and well worth having a look at if you happen to be in the area.

The parkland around them is beautiful, if a little neglected. They've got a herd of white fallow deer in the deer-park that are the descendants of a pair of white fallow deer that were a wedding gift given by Queen Elizabeth I, way back in 1597, to a god-daughter who was marrying an Irish peer.

Parkanaur Forest Park White Fallow Deer
Parkanaur Forest Park White Fallow Deer
The manor house, which is now a college for adults with disabilities, dates from 1820.

Parkanaur House, County Tyrone
Parkanaur House, County Tyrone

There's a rather nifty plaque on the wall that boasts how the family were mortgage-free after the work had finished. That smacks of boasting to my 21st century ears...


If you're in the neighbourhood Parkanaur Forest Park is well worth a visit. There are miles of forest tracks to follow, and dogs are welcome. You can find the details on their website


All the best for now,

Bonny x

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