From an orienteering viewpoint winter is a good time to look at trees because their shapes are so obvious. We immediately spotted examples of "the tick". This is the asymmetrical shape formed by each tree in response to wind, water and sun.
Growth is stronger and more horizontal when facing the sun (south) and branches are thicker and lower. Facing north the branches tend to grow more vertically as they aim for the light.This creates a fuller look on one side and a more upright look on the other. Sometimes it is quite subtle, but if you look carefully you can be sure that the stronger lower branches are facing south/south west and towards the prevailing wind and sunshine. Equally, moisture-loving moss will grow on the north side of a tree trunk as water evaporates on the sunny side. We saw many examples of this.
Outside the front of the house is a 200 year old sycamore, now protected. These trees can live for 400 years. We walked along the Sweet Chestnut and Beech Walk where we also saw English and sessile oaks. We all know the familiar rounded shape of an English oak - a sessile oak is much taller and thinner with smaller oak leaves. Apparently one of the tallest in the UK can be found at Knole. The roots of an oak tree are between 2-3 times the width of the crown! An amazing thought when you imagine them spreading out under your feet. A number of oaks and chestnuts were disfigured by wart-like growths called "burrs" caused by previous injury or pest invasion. These burrs are much sought after as they sculpt beautifully into grainy bowls. They certainly give trees character.