Baby Boom!

Hello to all our readers during this period of confinement. We hope you will enjoy another contribution focussing on the outdoors rather than the house itself, which of course at the moment remains closed to the public, though we can see some work is going on inside such as painting and renovation.

Baby coots on the Long Water. There were four chicks initially but lately only two have been spotted.

If you have been walking in the park, you will probably also have spotted the goslings and cygnets which all seem to be growing and shedding their down with amazing speed! if you live too far away to visit at the moment, please visit us on Twitter @FOVM4 or on Facebook where we have uploaded pictures of the estate, which really is looking wonderful at the moment. Simon Litt and his Park team continue to work their magic.

Greylag goslings

Greylag geese are our commonest native geese. In the park the goslings from several families have grouped together. This is known as a crèche.

A few weeks later, growing rapidly!

A few weeks after the goslings were spotted, four cygnets hatched and can be seen most days either on or near the Long Water or the Ornamental Pond, though the geese do like to wander far and wide! We understand there may well be more cygnets to hatch in the coming days.

Wild white stork chicks hatch!

Before you get too excited at this headline, the recent news of the reintroduction into this country and successful hatching of wild white stork chicks is sadly not here on the Valentines estate, but on the Knepp estate in Sussex.

Follow the link to see some amazing photos of the storks on the Knepp Estate!

However you may not realise there is a connection between Valentines Mansion and the Knepp Castle Estate!!

Sir Charles Raymond Burrell

The Knepp Estate is owned by Sir Charles Raymond Burrell, 10th Baronet. Sir Charles lives with his family at Knepp Castle, West Sussex, a castellated mansion built for the Burrells around 1808 by John Nash. He has managed the 3,500-acre Knepp estate since he was 21, and is now known for the rewilding project that he has undertaken there.

Knepp came into the Burrell family when William Burrell, a lawyer and Sussex historian, married Sophia Raymond, daughter of our very own Sir Charles Raymond of Valentines.

Sir Charles Raymond, 1st Baronet.

Our Sir Charles (1st Baronet) gave the estate, then 1,600 acres, to his daughter in 1787, shortly before he died and the Raymond baronetcy passed to his son-in-law, William Burrell.

You can read more about Sir Charles Raymond’s ownership of Valentines here.

Discover the stories behind things you may stumble across as you walk in the park!

Valentines in bloom: an 18th century Swedish botanist, a 19th century minister and a “trip” to Istanbul, Palestine and Israel.

Cercis siliquastrum

On today’s walk, I photographed this beautiful tree. With its eye on the North East Wing of the mansion, this is a cercis siliquastrum, otherwise known in English as a Judas Tree, donated in 2010 to the Valentines Park by the Rotary Club.

And it’s in bloom at the moment!

Dedication Plaque for the Rotary Club 2010

This spurred me on to a bit of research, which I’d like to share. Diana Smith

This is a deciduous tree of the Mediterranean Maquis, that blooms before the leaves sprout. It has deep pink flowers which are edible (though we DON’T have permission to pick them!) and purportedly have a sweet-acid taste.

Another striking feature of this tree is its pods.  After pollination the ovary elongates and turns into a legumen. This is green and gradually changes to brown upon ripening, 7-15 cm long. It does not open and remains on the tree for a long time. Only strong winds cause the pods to fall from the tree. The numerous seeds they contain are approximately 3 mm long. They are flat, rounded and brown. When the legumens split open, the seeds disperse and germinate with great ease.

The Judas Tree and the Mulberry Tree

Carl Linnaeus

Swedish botanist, zoologist, and physician, Carl Linnaeus, (1707-1778) known as the “father of modern taxonomy” or “Princeps botanicorum” (Prince of Botanists) amongst other names, was responsible for formalising the modern system of naming organisms. Born in southern Sweden, after becoming professor of medicine and botany at Uppsala University, he travelled widely to find and classify plants, animals and minerals, publishing several volumes and becoming one of the most acclaimed scientists in Europe.

The Judas Tree was first described by Linnaeus in 1753 and he gave it the specific epithet of siliquastrum which is derived from the Latin word siliqua, meaning “pod”. The generic name comes from the Greek kerkis, a “shuttle”, which refers to the resemblance shown to this weaver’s tool by the flat, woody seedpods.

Why is it called a Judas tree? 

It is most commonly known in English as the Judas tree because it is believed Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples who took a bribe of 30 pieces of silver to betray his master, hanged himself from the tree. According to the story, until he did so the flowers had been white, but since the hanging the tree became ashamed and the flowers blushed a deep pink.  Another possible source for the vernacular name is the fact that the flowers and seedpods can dangle direct from the trunk in a way reminiscent of Judas’s possible method of suicide. 

Theodore Ledyard Cuyler (1822 – 1909) was a Presbyterian minister and religious writer in the United States, he perpetuated the myth of the association of this tree with death when he gave a sermon about the deadly effects of succumbing to temptation. He used the analogy of a Judas tree, stating falsely that the tree killed bees drawn to it to perform the act of pollination, claiming that every bee which alighted upon the flaming beauty of the blossom, “imbibes a fatal opiate, and drops dead from among the crimson flowers to the earth.”

Tree of Judea

The name “Judas tree”  in English is most probably though simply a corrupted derivation from the French common name, Arbre de Judée, meaning tree of Judea, referring to the hilly regions of that land where the tree is and used to be common.  

Israel and Palestine

The seeds easily propagate and take root, which is most likely the reason why in this area of the world the tree often seems to grow next to the road, perhaps in earth that has been disturbed by roadworks.

Healing properties?

Here the tree is used in traditional medicine and there has been a recent study at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at An-Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine into the potential of using it to create a drug to treat breast cancer. The data of the study revealed the tree’s significant “antimicrobial and antioxidant effects that contributed significantly to the cytotoxicity of cancer cells meriting further detailed studies.”

The Arabic name is zamziriq ‘uthibiun, زمزريق أثيبي and in Hebrew, the Judas tree is called: חליל החורש כליל החורש, Clil Hahoresh, which means something like “lightness of the forest”. Lightness as in the opposite of heavy, which would seem a beautiful name worthy of the tree’s wonderful bright colour and possible healing properties.

Early 20th century “blogger” Francis McCullagh

As long ago as April 1909, at the time ownership of Valentines Mansion was only just about to transfer to the people of Ilford, British war correspondent, journalist and author Francis McCullagh (1874-1956) was in Istanbul writing about the fall of Abdul Hamid.

He reported seeing “innumerable” Judas trees in Yildiz Park, Istanbul.

More can be read about this N. Irish-born Catholic writer at

The Turks know the tree as erguvan, redbud or love tree. And if we travel to Turkey today to Yildiz Park in Istanbul via the wonders of the internet, we will still be able to see a veritable bloom of amethyst magic.

We will post pictures of the tree again as its pods develop.

30 May 2020. A month later and here they are!

26 July 2020 update

FACT: The name Cercis comes from the Greek kerkis “shuttle” because of the seed pods resemblance to a weavers tool; siliquatstrum comes from Latin siliqua “pod”.

Life as we know it, on hold

Hello everyone. If you aren’t near enough to be able to enjoy the pleasure of a walk round Valentines Park in the Spring, you might enjoy these few photos, taken this afternoon.

Colourful flower beds

In view of the Covid-19 emergency the committee of The Friends has decided to postpone our events in May, June and July. We hope these can be re-scheduled in the autumn, and we will publish further information in the July Newsletter and monthly e-news which go out to members.

Why not join us?

If you aren’t yet a member, maybe now is a good time for you to join us.  The subscription costs £8 a year and in view of the uncertainty at the moment, current membership subscriptions will run through until 31st March 2021. Please follow the links to pay using electronic banking, which is the only option at the moment. 

Looking forward to when the house can open again

Mansion open days have been cancelled until further notice. Check the Mansion’s website for updates:

In the meantime, the park can be enjoyed

Tree sculptures outside the Gardener’s Cottage Café in the Walled Garden.
Gardeners have been hard at work