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The mighty ash (Fraxinus excelsior) which stands on the lawns to the front of Gordon Castle, in the Morayshire town of Fochabers, presents an imposing figure.
The trunk is of exceptional girth for this species, measuring a staggering 7.79 metres (25 feet 7 inches) in girth at 1m (3 feet 3 inches) above ground level. Above this, the girth becomes grossly exaggerated because of large swellings and limb bases, attaining 8.74 metres (28 feet 8 inches) at 1.5 metres (4 feet 11 inches) above ground.
The huge, stately canopy is equally impressive, with the massive limbs which form the framework of the crown reaching 28.5 metres (93 feet 6 inches) in height. The tree appears to have been pollarded many years ago, and displays a typically low-branching and multi-stemmed crown form.
As is typical with most old ash trees, the trunk is heavily decayed and largely hollow. It is a remarkable testament to the strength of its timber that the thin outer shell of sound wood is capable of supporting such a capacious canopy.
Ash as a species is relatively short-lived, with few trees exceeding 200 years before old age and decay set in. The Gordon Castle tree is clearly something of an exception, and is of considerable antiquity. The site has been a stronghold of the Gordon Clan since the 15th century, with the original castle of 1470 being replaced by the 4th Duke of Gordon in 1769. It is likely the tree dates from around this time.
Where to see the Gordon Castle Ash:
The entrance to Gordon Castle is located at the west end of the town of Fochabers, approximately 14.5km (9 miles) east of Elgin, Moray. The impressive entrance gates lie to the north of the A98 road at the war memorial, just at the entrance to the west end of the main street. The ash tree stands on the lawns to the north of the castle. Access available with permission.
Image: copyright Edward Parker