When Liz Dixon-Spain got married in 1967, there was only one place where she wanted to celebrate – in her parent’s garden with this beautiful beech tree (Fagus sylvatica) overlooking the festivities. She planted daffodils around it just for the occasion. “It felt wonderful having the tree in the background,” says the 73-year-old from South Holland, Lincolnshire. “I have been friends with it all my life.”
Holding wedding receptions in the garden has become something of a family tradition, with her two sisters also celebrating their nuptials next to the tree in 1974 and then 1977. The beech has been a constant presence in her family’s lives. “It is part of all of our family memories because they all happened around the tree,” Liz says.
When she was a child, Liz often played around the tree with her siblings and enjoyed watching it come to life as a “home to generations of wildlife”. “There were tawny owls, as well as all the usual garden birds, with pheasants also roosting in its branches. Hedgehogs, squirrels, rabbits, muntjac deer, dormice, frogs and toads have all sheltered in the plants growing under this tree.”
After her marriage ended, she moved back to her childhood home, an old vicarage, where she has been living ever since. “We think our lovely tree is at least 130 years old – around the same age as the house.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, she would open up the garden to the public as part of the national garden scheme. Visitors were just as impressed when they first caught a glimpse of the tree. “The house is three storeys and on a hill, so you can see just how big the tree is,” says Liz. “Looking at it from inside the house is fantastic, but to stand right underneath feels extraordinary. It’s in the middle of the garden and it’s so large, it’s almost trying to get into the house.”
The tree has also become a major part of her children and grandchildren’s lives too. Liz has four grownup sons, who spent their childhood playing tennis marathons on the grass in front of the tree. Her children and eight grandchildren live across the UK, in London, Scotland, Southport and Stamford. “They come here to meet up. The tree brings us together.”
One of her grandchildren, Frank, 10, lives in Hackney, east London, but visits Liz often. The beech tree inspired him to write the following poem, which begins: “Through the pebble filled driveway, through the old wooden gate, lay a paradise for nature.”
Liz is happy that everything is coming full circle. “The memories that me, my sisters and my children have are carrying on in our grandchildren, who use the area for camps, ‘kick the can’ football and wheelbarrow races. The tree has become a hub for our family.”
• Tell us about your favourite tree by filling in this form.