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23rd November 2017

Book review: Ancient oaks in the English Landscape

David Lonsdale reviews Aljos Farjon’s book about how the oak tree has shaped the English landscape over the past thousand years.

Connections between past land use and the present-day distribution of ancient trees are the central theme of this book by Aljos Farjon, a botanist and author who is renowned for his work on conifers and who, in retirement, has turned his attention to ancient oaks.

Contributors to the Ancient Tree Inventory have recorded thousands of ancient trees in the UK.  Aljos Farjon hit on the idea of using this information in order to explore in detail the relationships that were already known to occur between the distribution of England’s ancient oaks and the history of land use.  By personally recording trees at many sites and by studying documented site history, he has confirmed the strength of these relationships, while also creating a very readable and fascinating book.

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22nd November 2017

Launch of ATF London

Nev Fay

Kensington Gardens

Greg Packman, an arboriculturalist with the Royal Parks, writes about the recent launch of ATF London held at Kensington Gardens in October.

The meeting started off outside the Kensington Gardens park office where we had an introduction from Simon Richards, Park Manager of Richmond Park and Head of Park Operations for The Royal Parks. Through his role at Richmond Park with its 1000 plus ancient trees, Simon has worked closely with many from the ATF over the past 20 years so was the ideal person to introduce the first meeting. After a brief introduction from myself and then from London Tree Officers Association Chair, John Parker we set off for the first veteran tree.

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22nd November 2017

To Brotherswater with ATF Cumbria

Ben Garish of HDDN media

Walking through pasture towards Dovedale

Clare de Villanueva, Cumbria Woodlands Project Officer, and member of the ATF Cumbria group, writes about their recent visit to Brotherswater

It was a chilly, misty autumnal day, beginning with an exciting approach for me via the Kirkstone Pass. An excellent turn out made for some serious parking challenges, which were negotiated well by Ian Jack (leader of the ATF Cumbria group). The visit to Brotherswater had been inspired by Cumbria Woodlands’ ash project, which is looking in part at ancient and pollarded ash. The day was hosted by Liam Plummer of the National Trust, and we were also joined by a lichenologist and a film maker.

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22nd November 2017

Recording the ashscape

Hannah Solloway

Hollow ash

This veteran ash tree, with its beautiful heart-shaped form created by cambium curving round the decayed hollow, can be found towards the bottom of a chalk downland valley in North Dorset.

With its hollow trunk, deadwood in the crown, rot holes and cavities, the tree has many veteran features and is hugely valuable for its biodiversity as well as its aesthetic appeal. It supports many species of lichens and bryophytes, some of which are almost entirely dependent on veteran ash trees, due to the unique characteristics of the bark. These include the (UK) priority lichen Bacidia incompta, and the nationally scarce Bacidia delicata and Caloplaca ulcerosa. The white-rot wood decay in the trunk provides decaying woody habitat for a range of saproxylic invertebrate species.

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14th November 2017

Ancient oaks in Somerset

Chris Knapman

Castle Neroche oak

Forester Jon Burgess, of Forestry Commission England, writes about the Piddle Oaks, which the ATF Devon group visited during their field event at Castle Neroche in Somerset last Autumn.

On top of the hill overlooking the Taunton Vale, in an landscape surrounded by ancient earthwork fortifications, hidden deep within the wood are a wonderful collection of ancient oaks. As with all things this old there remains a bit of a mystery about the history – were they on the edge of the royal hunting Forest of Neroche, or within a separate park pale that survived after the forest was broken up?

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9th November 2017

ATF Wessex visit to Longleat

David Blake

The Grove, Longleat

David Blake, who leads ATF Wessex, writes about the group’s Autumn visit to Longleat in Wiltshire

On the morning of 20th October, a few of us were logging on to the BBC Weather web page and wondering if we were going to be lucky or not. For some months, Julian Hight, Jim McConkie, Hilary Abbott and myself had been working on a plan to bring off the third Wessex ATF event. We particularly wanted this one to have a varied audience and, if possible, a larger audience than usual. We were lucky: the weather god did us proud.

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19th October 2017

Rewilding and the Knepp conference lectures

Knepp Castle Estate

Grazing cattle at Knepp

Jamie Simpson, who carries out arboricultural work at the Knepp Estate in Sussex, writes about the rewilding of Knepp, the influence of Frans Vera, and the Vera Conference at Knepp: ‘Freeing the Landscape: Grazing animals as ecosystems engineers’ (see link to presentations below).

The introduction of free-roaming grazing herbivores, extinct animals and a return to less interventional land management is commonly known now as ‘Rewilding’. It has been a hot topic amongst nature conservationists, land managers and farmers since the publication of Grazing Ecology and Forest History by Frans Vera in 2000 and more recently, promotion in mainstream journalism by George Monbiot.

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9th August 2017

ATF Wessex: Managing visitors and veterans in Wiltshire

Jim Mullholland

Jim Mullholland joined the ATF Wessex group for a field event in June to Southwick Country Park, a site much-visited by local people, to see how the veteran trees are managed.

Nestled on the outskirts of Trowbridge, Southwick Country Park is an impressive veteran tree site which can easily be overlooked. Along the former agricultural hedgerows the veteran oak pollards are becoming lost in forests of newly planted trees.

The country park was purchased by Wiltshire Council in 1989 with a view to developing a golf course. At that time strips of trees were planted to frame fairways and develop a number of holes within the loose agricultural field framework. When plans for a golf course didn’t continue, the land was instead used to create a country park for local residents.

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8th August 2017

Training the trainers

Jim Mullholland

Jim Mullholland, ATF’s Training and Technical Officer, writes about this year’s three-day veteran tree training course which took place after the summer conference at Epping Forest.

For this year’s course, we took advantage of the superb setting of Gilwell Park. Bookings were up and unfortunately we had to turn some people away due to being fully booked. We were fortunate to be joined by a number of international delegates, who brought a different perspective on things.

The three-day course was developed as part of the VETree project and has been designed to give the delegates the information, skills and experience to enable them to deliver a one-day course on valuing and managing veteran trees.

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7th August 2017

Epping Forest: Insights and inspiration

Hannah Solloway

Epping Forest

Tim Hill, ATF trustee, writes about the charity’s 2017 conference, held at Epping Forest in July, and attended by around 240 people each day.

This year’s conference was a refreshing blend of talks, walks, insights and inspiration.  As Jeremy Dagley, the event organiser and Head of Conservation at Epping Forest succinctly put it: “There’s a real buzz of excitement in the room”.

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