Letter-headed leaf sprouts tree search

A CHILD'S fascination for headed letters has led to a hunt for Ipswich's oldest tree.Little Tess Kirby was determined to have an official-looking letter of her very own.

A CHILD'S fascination for headed letters has led to a hunt for Ipswich's oldest tree.

Little Tess Kirby was determined to have an official-looking letter of her very own.

And, for some unknown reason, she decided to write to Ipswich Borough Council seeking the town's oldest tree hoping for an official reply.

But seven-year-old Tess, of Fonnereau Road, Ipswich, got more than she bargained for when the council launched a competition to solve her quest.

Dad Colin Kirby said: "Tess is very much the inquisitive girl and she was really thrilled with the letter.

"She wrote it after I dug some of my childhood things out of the loft, amongst them was a headed letter and that gave her the idea to write her own.

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"She rushed to her room and emerged several minutes later with the finished letter and the minute it was written she was expecting a reply, it did arrive the next week which was quite prompt."

The reply came from Martin Minta, the council's tree officer and it explained that he wanted to come and visit Tess to talk to her about her enquiry.

Mr Minta said: "I couldn't give her an answer because I didn't really have one – I didn't know what the oldest tree was but I thought it would be a good idea to try and find out."

It is not just a matter of counting the tree's rings either, measurements have to be taken of the tree's girth and maps and historical records are consulted for reference to the tree.

Mr Minta added: "It's a bit harmful to go drilling into the trees but there are other methods.

"Measuring the rings can be very accurate if it's done scientifically but some old trees are hollow, there aren't always rings.

"Currently we've got a couple of contenders in Christchurch Park, these are sweet chestnuts and I'd expect the oldest to be an oak, yew or sweet chestnut."

The competition is being launched as part of national tree week which begins on November 26.

Run by the Tree Council the week aims to promote trees and encourage tree planting.

And the winner of the Ipswich tree competition will be given the opportunity to help plant a commemorative tree in Chantry Park as well as free tickets to a forthcoming attraction at the Ipswich Corn Exchange.

Anyone wishing to elect a tree for the competition should take a measurement of the tree's circumference at a point 1.5m above the ground.

This should be sent with a plan or grid reference of the tree's location to Leisure Services, Ipswich Borough Council, Civic Drive, Ipswich IP1 2EE or via email to ian.plowman@ipswich.gov.uk.

Any historical information about the tree would be an also be appreciated.

Mr Minta plans to narrow the entrants down to the top six and form a judging panel with Ipswich Wildlife Group and a top tree surgeon helping to decide the winner.

Closing date for entries will be Monday, January 19.

For further information contact Leisure Services on 01473 433500.

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