19th century poet remembered following the restoration of a lost landscape
Keble’s Seat on Mutters Moor near Sidmouth is named after the English churchman John Keble and commands a breathtaking panoramic view of the Lower Otter Valley and Dartmoor in the distance.
John Keble (1792 – 1866) was an English churchman and one of the leaders of the influential Oxford Movement - Oxford’s Keble College was named after him. He was also a frequent visitor to Sidmouth and folklore suggests that Keble’s favourite spot was Mutter’s Moor where a wooden bench known as Keble’s Seat remains to this day.
For nearly 50 years Keble’s view was concealed by a mature forest of Japanese larch which, in 2012, was felled by Clinton Devon Estates to prevent the spread of the deadly tree disease Phytophthora ramorum which destroyed swathes of woodland across the south west.
On March 7th three saplings were planted at the site of Keble’s seat by Sir Jonathan Phillips, the Warden of Keble College, Lord Clinton from Clinton Devon Estates and Diana East of the Sidmouth Arboretum, which proposed the commemorative planting.
The trees planted are copper beech saplings, chosen to mirror the 19th century tree which still stands in Keble College’s Pusey Quad.
According to John Wilding, the Head of Forestry and the Environment for Clinton Devon Estates, the clearance of the larch plantation has returned the site to a landscape which John Keble would have found familiar.
“In John Keble’s day this spot would have been open grassland. In later years a larch plantation was planted but now that it has been felled, the view which John Keble would have enjoyed has been restored,” said John.
“Anyone who wants to sit on Keble’s Seat will once again enjoy the fabulous views of the Lower Otter Valley and across to Dartmoor. The planting of the saplings will help to make this beautiful spot just a little bit more special.”
The tree planting idea came from the Sidmouth Arboretum which was founded with the aim of creating a collection of trees and shrubs on public and private land throughout the Sid Valley. It became the world’s first civic arboretum when it was launched in May, 2012.
Edward Willis Fleming from the Sidmouth Arboretum said: “One of our slogans is that ‘the arboretum belongs to everyone and everyone belongs to the arboretum’. As part of that ethos we look for every opportunity to plant trees in the area and encourage others to do so. Sometimes those plantings commemorate well-known, historical characters connected with the town.
“The local word is that John Keble was inspired by this landscape and now that it has been cleared of the larch plantation and Clinton Devon Estates has begun replanting, we felt that it would be an ideal place to locate commemorative trees,” added Mr Willis Fleming.