4th April 2017
‘Woodlands are under-valued for their veteran trees’ said Jamie Simpson, in his introductory talk about the area of the Dallington Forest he manages. Forge Wood is made up of a mosaic of gill woodland (identified by its geological features of ridges and valleys with streams draining into them) with ancient and other veteran beech trees, ancient coppice and areas likely to be remnants of wood pasture.
Dallington, in East Sussex, is one of the most remote large forests in the South East of England, and it is fragmented through multiple ownership. Jamie (pictured below) has managed Forge Wood for 10 years, and had invited the ATF to see his conservation work. Management over the years has included removal of rhododendron, pollarding of some of the younger trees, management of veteran trees, maintenance of rides, and re-establishment of coppicing.
30th March 2017
Brian Muelaner, trustee of the Ancient Tree Forum and former Ancient Tree Adviser for the National Trust, writes about how the two organisations are now working together
As a tiny charity with huge ambitions the ATF has formed a number of partnerships with other organisations to help achieve its aims to:
- Champion the conservation and management of ancient trees and their wildlife, heritage and cultural values
- Develop and share knowledge and experience of ancient trees and awaken people to their beauty and value
- Prevent avoidable loss of existing ancient trees
- Secure and expand future generations of ancient trees
For over 20 years the ATF has worked with various partners in a number of ways, for example through producing joint publications with English Nature (now Natural England), and campaigning with the Woodland Trust. More recently we have sought links with like-minded organisations through the signing of Concordats in order to commit to a shared vision for ancient trees.
One of the most significant signatories has been the National Trust, due to their vast ownership of ancient and other veteran trees, their enormous membership and influence. In June 2015 the trust’s Director General, Dame Helen Ghosh, and I, then Chair of the ATF, signed and sealed the Concordat beneath the Ankerwycke yew, the very site on which it is believed the Magna Carta was sealed.
29th March 2017
David Blake, who leads the new ATF Wessex group, joined local National Trust staff at the end of February for the group’s first field meeting, to Kingston Lacy and Holt Forest in Dorset
Kingston Lacy is one of the National Trust’s finest properties in the Wessex region and the regional and property staff had done us proud. After a brief welcome from myself we settled in the Mess Room to hear from Simon Ford (Wildlife and Countryside Consultancy Manager for the National Trust) about how ancient and veteran trees are managed within the Trust’s estate.
Integrating the specialist management of such important heritage assets (often, some of the trees around the great houses in the Trust’s portfolio are much older than the houses themselves) provides Simon and his colleagues with some real challenges. Many of these are around communicating the importance of the trees to colleagues and being able to meet the modern requirements for access, modern agricultural activity and public events in landscapes that were not designed with any of those things in mind.
16th March 2017
David Humphries, Trees Management Officer for the City of London, writes about veteran trees retained as standing dead wood at Hampstead Heath
Although not an ancient tree the veteran boundary oak (Quercus robur) above has now been retained at an acceptable level of risk, as a standing dead structure for its niche habitat and biodiversity value. It was in vascular decline for a number of years following significant storm damage in the 1990s, and it eventually succumbed naturally due to loss of canopy and to a poor partial rooting environment. The oak sits next to a well-used path in an urban open space with regular footfall within a couple of meters.
11th January 2017
Richard Parmee joined the ATF East Anglia group in December for their winter field visit to Melford Hall in Suffolk
On a somewhat damp and grey day, 40 people made their way to Melford Hall, for the chance to see some of the estate’s ancient trees. The estate’s roots can be traced back to the 13th century, though the current estate is now much smaller than before. Led by Robert Adams, the volunteer garden manager for the National Trust, the group were able to view many trees not normally accessible to the public, including one of impressive girth.
The walk started in the garden, where we saw a range of trees that, although perhaps not as visually impressive as some of the parkland trees, are old, if not ancient, by their own standards. Included were a black mulberry, gradually walking its way across the lawn, and a 200 year-old wisteria. The oldest was a formal trimmed box bush, somewhat inconspicuous from the outside, but able to fit nearly half the group inside.
The group then walked across some of the parkland, viewing relatively young oaks planted to reconstruct the park’s former avenues, before arriving at a group of eight ancient oaks. Now fenced to control access, the impact of years of grazing and occasional use by vehicles, most often during some of the annual events hosted, could be seen in some of the trees, prompting discussion on how best to help improve the soil conditions.
The largest of these trees was measured, recorded at 9.68m girth, making it one of the largest recorded trees in Suffolk. Two different approaches to calculating its age both came in either side of 600 years.
The group then set off round the outside of the current estate, taking in a veteran hawthorn and several boundary oaks, before the increasing gloom and rain forced a detour to shorten the walk. It ended back in the car park, to view a large oak showing symptoms typical of Acute Oak Decline, and highlight the importance of reporting such trees in helping to understand the condition.
17th November 2016
The Ancient Tree Forum held its October field meeting at the Wimpole estate in Cambridgeshire, now owned by the National Trust. Originally a small deer park (the first record is from 1302) surrounded by open fields, the Wimpole parkland has changed many times throughout its history.
Over the years, different owners employed different landscape designers and gardeners, who each left their mark on the landscape. One of the most influential was Capability Brown. The site is rich in veteran trees, and the surrounding farmland includes ancient boundary oak pollards. Another interesting aspect of the site is its saproxylic invertebrate fauna which is of exceptional richness, and includes European Red List species.
16th November 2016
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.
15th November 2016
Charles Bennet of the ATF Cumbria group, writes about the group’s second field trip, which was led by Ian Jack, head forester at the Lowther Estate, and the group’s founding member.
On the 24 September 2016 the Cumbria Branch of the Ancient Tree Forum met at Lowther Castle for a tour of Lowther Park in Cumbria, an old deer forest. The visit followed on from the group’s first field event, to the wood pastures of Geltsdale in June 2016, and looked at how the wood pastures on this part of the Lowther Estate have evolved into parkland.
15th November 2016
Tim Hill returns to Thoresby, part of the former Royal Forest of Sherwood, to see the oak featured in his last two blogs Mal sueño and the veteran oak and Sueño en la floresta.
Welcome back to my bosky corner. We parted last time to the mellifluous strains of Agustín Barrios dreaming in the forest. Dreams, reality and the distance between the two is an apt description of the challenges facing the Estate in reintroducing wood pasture and recruiting fresh cohorts of trees – to become the veterans of tomorrow – within a grazing regime.
15th November 2016
Keith Alexander, ATF trustee, reviews Fiona Stafford’s book, the Long, Long Life of Trees, described by the publishers as ‘a lyrical tribute to the diversity of trees, their physical beauty, their special characteristics and uses, and their ever-evolving meanings.’
Fiona Stafford is professor of English at the University of Oxford, and her book is primarily about trees in our culture, including English literature, songs, paintings and myths. An introductory chapter is followed by short chapters on yew, cherry, rowan, olive, cypress, oak, ash, poplar, holly, sycamore, birch, horse chestnut, elm, willow, hawthorn, pine and apple – a rather eccentric mix of species, with exotica such as olive featured but not more familiar trees such as beech, sweet chestnut, pear or plum.