Country diary: a magnificent pear tree ripe with mystery

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Axminster, Devon: It is not known who planted this tree and why, but its beauty is offered free to everyone who passes

There is a magnificent pear tree, nearly 10 metres tall, that stands alone in a small field of nettles near Axminster. In spring it foams with white blossom, and in autumn it weeps fruit. Winter reveals almost reptilian tessellations cracked into the bark on its bare, curving boughs.

I’ve often driven past and wondered what sort it is, who planted it and why. It’s next to the Fosse Way, the ancient Roman road connecting Exeter with the Midlands. If you follow the Fosse Way north across the border into Somerset, you encounter two more notable pears. These Somerset trees are perries, grown for their juice.

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