There were many discoveries in store for us when, over 40 years ago and in the depths of winter, we moved to Tarvin. Everything was new and we were able (with, as it were, new eyes) to watch the village go through its seasonal evolution: winter becoming spring and then moving into summer. In the spring, it was a joy to see buds beginning to break and, not long thereafter, hedgerows along lanes and around fields were be-decked with the May blossom of the hawthorn trees and bushes. Then, as those flowers faded, quite suddenly and all around Tarvin (but especially on the High Street) there appeared more Hawthorn blossom – but this time in a magnificent deep pink. We had met Tarvin's Midland Red Hawthorns!
It was Jim Grogan who explained to me the significance of the Midland Red Hawthorn. "It isn't a very common tree at all in this area", he said, "but, you do find it all over Tarvin. To me, it is the tree that typifies Tarvin village. It's almost as if it's Tarvin's tree." And, walking down the High Street in mid-May, it would be difficult to disagree with him. The red blossom seems to catch fire in the sunlight, so that the trees positively glow and, for a few short weeks, our High Street is a more beautiful place.
When Jim and his band of helpers took on the care of the woodland, there were plenty of common hawthorn (or May) trees, since the original hedges had been left without care or maintenance and so had grown hugely, thereby producing masses of blossom. Jim made sure that the woodland also contained a number of Midland Red hawthorns, partly because they are the trees which said, "Tarvin," but also to provide a contrast between the two varieties of the same species of Hawthorn tree. The Trustees have continued Jim's work in this respect (as in so many others) and have planted several more midland red hawthorns, with one being planted as a specimen tree in the area outside the Broomheath Lane gateway, where its red blossom can follow on from the display of daffodils growing amongst the grass beneath.
The midland hawthorn (Crataegus laevigata) differs from its cousin the common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) in a number of somewhat insignificant ways. Apart from the colour of the flower, the most obvious one is implied by the common hawthorn's Latin name – monogyna – it has only one seed in its berry (or haw – hence hawthorn), whereas the midland hawthorn has two seeds inside the haw. The midland hawthorn also has leaves which are less deeply-lobed than the common hawthorn and its flowers have a much fouler smell than its white flowered cousin.
However, all of this is of merely academic interest. The really important thing to consider is how fortunate we are in Tarvin to have so many of these trees within our village and how truly blessed we are each May when they produce their mass of pink-red flowers that glow in the sunshine! Tarvin is a great village in which to live – and the midland red hawthorns are just one of the things that make it so.