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
VETcert, the project to develop a Europe-wide accreditation scheme for those working on veteran trees, officially started in December with partners from seven European countries meeting in Brussels. As part of the standard setting stage of the project, the ATF is now seeking the views of stakeholders within the UK on the minimum requirements for those working on veteran trees.
The ATF is a main partner in the project and is leading on the standard setting section of the project in recognition of the wealth of experience and knowledge within the organisation. Since December, work has also begun on researching existing accreditation schemes in other sectors, to see what can be learnt from them.
A short questionnaire has been produced which includes questions on specific issues relating to veteran trees in the UK as well as questions on the minimum knowledge and skills required for those working at both a practicing level (tree surgeons) and at a consulting level.
We would welcome the input of the ATF’s supporters who are asked to complete the online survey by Friday 21 April. For more information about the VETcert project, contact Jim Mullholland, Training and Technical Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
18th January 2017
Ted Green, the Ancient Tree Forum’s Founder President, has been awarded the Royal Forestry Society (RFS)’s highest honour – a Gold Medal for Distinguished Services to Forestry.
In proposing Ted for the award, Derick Stickler of the RFS said that ‘he speaks with passion and enthusiasm, and presents his audience with ideas that are often treated with scepticism at first, but which are now part of mainstream debate in forestry and arboriculture circles.’ Or, as Ted likes to joke, ‘They seem to like me shouting at them!’
The RFS also credits Ted with bridging the gaps between forestry and conservation and influencing the debate in forestry and arboriculture for more than 50 years. Derek Stickler, who worked with Ted at Windsor for more than 20 years, said ‘Through Ted’s work with the Windsor Estate it could be demonstrated to practicing forestry professionals, conservationists and students that silviculture and conservation are not mutually exclusive.’
Ted too feels that his main achievement is having pushed for the recognition among foresters, of the value of ancient trees. ‘Biodiversity works for timber production’, he says.
It was the people involved in forestry that first drew Ted to trees, he explains. ‘People who are connected to trees are special sort of people’. As a child during the war, he would often spend time with foresters at Windsor (‘the old foresters, the young ones had gone to war’). Later, he got to know the Canadian lumberjacks who came over to work there.
Ted has received many awards over the years, but he’s especially proud of the RFS award: ‘This medal represents recognition for the huge value of ancient trees,’ he says.
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.
7th December 2016
The Ancient Tree Forum is backing a campaign to save the last remnant of a medieval deer park from being turned into a housing development. ATF’s supporters are urged to register their opposition to the development.
The planning application for 227 houses in Aldermaston Park near Reading, which has caused local uproar, would see the loss of more than 180 trees (60% of the trees in the application area), some of which are hundreds of years old. The damage to this important wildlife habitat and nationally important historic parkland is being justified on the basis that it will ensure the remainder of the habitat can be adequately managed. The site is Grade two listed on the National Heritage List for England’s Register of Parks and Gardens.
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
Historic England, the public body that looks after England’s historic environment, is probably best known for its work with historic buildings and monuments, but it also cares about natural environments, and has now made a firm commitment to protecting ancient and other veteran trees.
This autumn, Historic England’s Director of Planning, Chris Smith, signed the Ancient Tree Forum’s Concordat, at a meeting with Russell Miller, Chair of the Ancient Tree Forum, and other trustees. The document begins with the statement that ‘Ancient trees are a vital and treasured part of the natural and cultural landscape. They support a stunning diversity of wildlife and are a very important and highly valued part of our heritage.’ The Concordat goes on to set out a vision for ancient and other veteran trees to be safeguarded, and outlines the commitment it expects from its signatories, which also include the National Trust and the Arboricultural Association.