My youngest sister Georgie and her husband, who is from Lebanon, gave me one of my favourite books: it is a beautiful book about cedars of Lebanon, with the subtitle “Pledge of Eternity”. They are such exceptional trees, majestic and enduring, mentioned many times in the Bible, and before that an important symbol for the Egyptian Pharaohs who valued the wood, which was deemed incorruptible.
The trees were later coveted by Alexander the Great, Antigonus, the Romans, and the Arabs to build fleets of ships.
There are four taxa (family units) of cedar, firstly Cedar of Lebanon; secondly Cedrus Atlas which has blue tinged needles; thirdly Deodara (meaning woods of Gods), which has a more slender silhouette, we planted two here some four years ago. Lastly cedar of Cyprus or Cedrus Brevifolia which grows slowly and is not so tall.
The cedars here at Highclere have witnessed perhaps 250 years of history. Not long compared to some of their counterparts in Lebanon. I measured the girth of one tree and found it more than six of me with arms outstretched. Every year we plant some more, as old friends are brought down in gusting gales, or branches crack overloaded with snow.
They provide structure and beauty throughout the year in the park here. The fate of the forests of Cedars in Lebanon is however under threat. Some of the trees there are now called ‘the survivors’ as the thousands of trees have been reduced to groups of hundreds.
What better to way to mark Heroes at Highclere on Sunday August 3rd than to plant a cedar of Lebanon. I have found a place on the approach to the Castle and hope many people will walk by on the day and help us plant it. We will have pledges you can clip on the branches of it and the ones nearby, pledges to help refugees in Lebanon today and a few lucky prizes for those who take part to win – by way of a thank you.
Beside the place for the new cedar is the remains of an old one. I am sitting counting the rings to judge how old it is. What was happening in the world when this tree started?