Reprinted from Newsletter 102, dated 2002 January

Saplings from Beechbarrow thrive at Sunnyside

Cathie and Alardus van den Bosch

Nearly a thousand feet up above Wells, on the Bristol Road by Cleopatra’s needle or the Pen Hill TV mast, live a charming retired couple under the shade of some magnificent beech trees. Pat and Tommy Todd of Beechbarrow have kindly allowed the Glastonbury Conservation Society to collect saplings from under their trees.

Ian Rands had arranged for us to collect about 70 small trees to transplant to our hedgerow in East Pennard. We were the last of the lucky ones, as more than a thousand trees have been replanted from Beechbarrow to places around Mendip.

Tommy, who was once a Grenadier Guardsman, and his wife Pat used to live in Whitstable, near Ramsgate in Kent, where Tommy’s dad was known as Cockle Todd, having sold cockles from his barrow there. Tommy had hundreds of relatives living in the area. About sixteen years ago to be closer to their son, his wife and five grandchildren, they moved to Beechbarrow.

Beechbarrow has a fascinating history. Around 1942, Italian prisoners of war came up from their camp near Wookey Hole (the present EMI site) to repair the stone wall alongside the road. Even after their release many prisoners decided to stay and work in the area. One such Italian loved the beautiful scenery around Beechbarrow because it reminded him of the seven hilltops around Rome. If one takes time to look one can count seven hills from there.

The Italian asked if he could make a statue with the leftover muck (cement) from the day’s work — he had been a stonemason in Rome, and wanted to mark the spot with a statue dedicated to Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers who were the legendary builders of Rome. The story goes that they were brought up by a wolf, and this wolf is what he sculpted there, which still stands by the road, on a tall Roman-style pillar.

So now when we plant our beech grove at Sunnyside, East Pennard, there will be a story to tell; maybe one day someone might tell the tale under the shade of a beautiful glorious beech tree. All thanks to the Todds: what goes round comes around.

As the plantations grow here, there and everywhere, tomorrow will show that people really do care and will share when there is plenty. With thanks to all who have helped us put our orchard back together, and especially to the indispensable Major Ian Rands.