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16th November 2016

Book review: Ancient Trees of the National Trust


The National Trust is Europe’s largest private custodian of ancient trees. This new book features iconic trees in their care like the Ankerwycke Yew, and the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ tree, as well as properties across England, Wales and Northern Ireland which are rich in ancient and other veteran trees. Ted Green, ATF’s founder president, reviews Ancient Trees of the National Trust, co-authored by ATF trustee Brian Muelaner, and photographer Edward Parker.

This is a welcome addition both to books about ancient and other veteran trees, and to the National Trust’s shops, where it will illustrate to members and visitors the wealth of our living heritage. Brian’s informative, well-researched descriptions of the estates as well as the trees and their biodiversity, will almost certainly encourage visitors to look beyond the well-tended landscape gardens and houses, their art treasures and other man-made features. Eddie’s excellent pictures will no doubt also inspire visitors to look at the magnificence, beauty and history of the natural world beyond the garden gate.

Long-time supporters of the Ancient Tree Forum will know that the majority of the early outdoor meetings were held on National Trust estates to encourage and advise staff, and make them aware of just how important the old trees were. As well as raising awareness of our living natural treasures among visitors to National Trust properties, Brian and Eddie’s book will provide further encouragement to trust’s staff and managers, especially those who need endorsement of their care for ancient trees.

I have repeated many times that the single greatest contribution to the conservation of European biodiversity and cultural heritage is the care and preservation of our old trees. Rivers, marshes and sand dunes to name but a few threatened ecosystems, can be found throughout Europe, as can historic houses, gardens and their contents. Our old trees, however, stop at the Channel.

I once met a Chinese visitor at the Ankerwycke Yew and said to him ‘This tree is the most important tree in the history of the English speaking peoples, as the only living witness to the sealing of the Magna Carta and the beginning of freedom under law.’ His retort was that it is ‘the most important tree to the world’. The care of this tree is a tremendous responsibility for the National Trust, and is perhaps more important than anything else they own.

The sale of this book in the Trust’s shops should encourage the production of more information on their trees for members and visitors, and is another step forward in the fascinating adventure of conserving special trees. Brian and Eddie have produced a beautifully illustrated, highly readable book.

Ancient Trees of the National Trust was published by the National Trust in October, and can be bought from their shops and website for £25. It is also available through Summerfield books and other outlets.

Posted by: Ted Green

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