Nilambur is a green, picturesque town in the northern district of Malappuram, Kerala renowned for it’s magnificent teak plantations and forests. A perfect green escape from the concrete jungles and asphalt plains of the city. The place is chequered in spectacular hues of green and there is no escaping the majestic trees !!
Teak wood has iconic status in Kerala. The elegant artefacts and furniture made from teak are prized possessions in families for generations. The local affinity towards teak can be attributed to it’s water resistant property in a land blessed by the rain gods.
An object of marvel here is the 150-meter-long suspension bridge across river Chaliyar. Crossing this, we reach the Conolly Plot.
The Henry Conolly Teak Preservation Park in Nilambur, Kerala is akin to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park in Santa Cruz County in California. While both present stunningly tall and handsome gifts of nature, the younger cousin teak (derived from botanical term, Tectona grandis) has diverse and universal value from ancient days. Growing to a height of only about one third of the Redwood species, teak trees equally supplement the virtues of soil preservation, biodiversity and tropical forest ecology.
Teak wood is a carpenter’s delight and owner’s pride with its attractive veneer and well-figured grains with distinct streak. They have been widely used in house building (joinery), making of outdoor patios and decks, as timber for transmission line posts, bridges and even in ship-building (by the British companies in earlier days) by virtue of its durability and endurance characteristics.
Showcasing this prized wood is the world’s first Teak Museum (and Bio-resources Nature Park), the major tourist attraction in Nilambur. There are several exhibits of wood, library, nursery, and a collection of medicinal plants spread out in green and woody landscapes. Tourists, connoisseurs, and serious planters gather here for relaxing and learning.
Henry Valentine Conolly – Magistrate and Collector of the Malabar District (an administrative precinct of British India under the Madras Presidency and now a northern region of Kerala State) – foreseeing these benefits in 1946, laid the founding theme of forest management by creating a teak plot of 117 trees in Nilambur in 1846. This is today preserved by the Kerala Forest Department as a preservation park.
Teak tree has no tap root system but is well anchored by a root network that spreads out extensively to distribute its massive weight in a large extent; natures own concept and engineering! The trees grow to about 100–150 feet with girth in the range of 25–27 feet (largest known).
A high point of our exhausting Teak forest and Museum tour was the Kulukki sarbat offered at a nearby juice stall. This Indian lemonade is a speciality of the region, a concoction of fresh cane juice, soda, ginger, basil seeds, sugar, salt and spices – all whisked, tossed and shaken vigorously by the chef-owner in deft and innocuous movements. The result was refreshing, tangy and tasteful, and yielded a much-needed relief from the heat and humidity.
….to be continued
The author Saji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Till next post, take care !!