Currently in flower in Charlton Park, Bishopsbourne are the lovely Linden trees which line the drive. Part of the Tilia family, they are also known in America as Basswood trees and in Britain as Lime trees, although this is actually just a linguistic corruption of their Middle English name Lind. Even Linden is a corruption of this because it really means ‘made of Lind’, just as wooden means ‘made of wood’.
Essentially we see three Lindens in Britain, the Large Leaved Lime, the Small Leaved Lime and the Common Lime which is a more common hybrid of the two. It can be difficult to distinguish between the three but typical features of all are their heart shaped, serrated edged leaves together with an accompanying narrow leaf shaped wing called a ‘bract’. Hanging from this we see several little flower pods which open to reveal yellow white attractively scented flowers. These have been used to make perfumes and also a soothing tea apparently. Pea-sized pale coloured fruits follow when the flowers fall.
Associated with feminine values such as peace, fertility and freedom, the Linden tree has been revered as a ‘beloved tree’ by Germanic peoples since the earliest times in our history. At one time local disputes were settled under a village Linden because they were thought to confer justice and, as recently as the first world war, soldiers in Europe carried a Linden leaf with them into battle as a means of spiritual protection.
In the days of European stately homes it became fashionable to plant Lindens along the drive to the grand house, which is no doubt why we see them in Charlton Park today: some of the trees there appear extremely old and would surely be classified as Heritage Trees by the Woodland Trust.
One of Kent’s most beloved Linden trees stood on the Kent County cricket pitch at Canterbury, just down the road from Bridge. This was known as the St Lawrence Lime and it grew for decades within the scoring boundary before being dismissed due to bad weather in 2005.