Did you know?
Archibald Menzies was served seeds of the monkey puzzle tree for dessert at a dinner with the Governor of Chile. He chose to plant rather than eat them, and arrived back in the UK with five healthy plants. Three of these seedlings grew into trees at Kew Gardens, the last one surviving until 1892.
The trees that line the wide valley bottom are mostly from South America, the Mediterranean and the Irano-Turanian (a botanically important area including the central, east and southeast Anatolian geographical divisions of Turkey). Up until the 1960s the valley was planted with crops, but today it is maintained as mown grassland. The best views of the valley are from high up in Coates Wood and looking north-northeast from Horsebridge Wood.
Things to look out for
Many statuesque trees line the valley, including cedars, pines and monkey puzzles (Araucaria araucana). The monkey puzzle is a native of Chile that was introduced to the UK in 1795 by the plant-collector and naval surgeon Archibald Menzies.
One of the most unusual trees is a rare type of porcupine fir (Abies pinsapo var. tazoatana) from northern Morocco. It was discovered by a Spanish forester working high up on the isolated Massif of Tazoat, who recognized the tree from his homeland. It is related to the Moroccan fir from the Rif mountains and the Spanish fir from southern Spain.