Cranmore, Belfast, is the site of some of the oldest chestnuts – sweet or Spanish chestnut Castanea sativa.
They are just off the Malone Road next to school playing fields owned by the Royal Belfast Academical Institution (Inst). The school was founded on the inspiration of a Belfast man, John Templeton, who is perhaps better known as the founder of natural history study here, a man with a wide knowledge of Ulster and its flora.
Templeton was a great supporter of the United Irishmen. He inherited Cranmore (‘big tree’), changing its name from the previous ‘Orange Grove’, so named because King William was believed to have tethered his horse to a tree in the grounds on his way to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
The chestnuts are thought to have been planted when the house was first built, 1620-40, so they pre-date John Templeton. Old they may be, but still growing. They also produce viable seed which has been used by pupils of local prep school Inchmarlo to grow new chestnut trees.
There is some concern over the future of this land with its magnificent trees; apart from the chestnuts there are several other important trees including a rare long leafed Quercus ilex lanceolata. And what about the remains of the house? Surely there is a possible restoration project here.