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16th March 2017

Managing standing dead veteran trees

By David Humphries

Using fracture and coronet cutting to mimic natural tears and fractured

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) below has 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.

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Posted by: David Humphries David Humphries is Trees Management Officer for the City of London at Hampstead Heath where there are over 400 veterans and a number of ancient trees.

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11th January 2017

ATF East Anglia visits Melford Hall

Richard Parmee

Meilford Hall

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.

Richard Parmee

Avenue at Melford hall


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.

Richard Parmee

Ancient oak at Melford Hall


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.

Posted by: ATF East Anglia

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17th November 2016

ATF autumn visit to Wimpole

Simon Damant


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.

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Posted by: Hannah Solloway Hannah is the Development Officer for the Ancient Tree Forum.

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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.

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Posted by: Ted Green

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15th November 2016

ATF Cumbria visit to Lowther Park

By Luke Steer

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.

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Posted by: ATF Cumbria

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15th November 2016

El Sueño de la Razón

By Tim Hill

Cattle grid at Thoresby

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.

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Posted by: Tim Hill Tim Hill is Forestry adviser to the Thoresby Estate, Nottinghamshire. and manages 800 hectares of ancient woodland in the Sherwood Forest

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15th November 2016

Book review: The Long, Long Life of Trees


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.

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Posted by: Keith Alexander Keith Alexander is a professional invertebrate ecologist who specialises in the fauna of decaying wood and particularly the rarer and more threatened species associated with ancient and veteran trees.

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28th July 2016

ATF Scotland in the Highlands

ATF Scotland group at Brahan

Adam Riedi, co-ordinator of Ancient Tree Forum Scotland, writes about the group’s visit in July to the Brahan Estate in the Scottish Highlands

The Brahan estate lies to the north of River Conon, around 25 miles north from Inverness.

Planting records show tree planting dating from the 17th century. At a time where east Highland society was still based upon the tribal loyalties of the clan system and the journey form Edinburgh was a serious undertaking, the estate of the Seaforths were beginning wide scale afforestation and the design of a planned landscape. Trees from the 1680’s can still be seen today, including the very fine Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine) growing on the banks of the Conon.

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Posted by: Adam Riedi Adam is an arboricultural advisor from Fife, who specialises in the management of veteran trees, and now runs the ATF Scotland regional group.

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28th July 2016

Capability Brown landscapes, and what beetles say about continuity

National Trust

Veteran trees in parkland at Wimpole

Many of the UK’s richest sites for wood-decay beetles are those which were influenced by Capability Brown. In this 300th anniversary year of the landscaper’s birth, Keith Alexander, ATF trustee and ecological consultant, considers why saproxylic beetles often thrive in Brown’s landscapes.

Wood pasture and parkland was the original ‘Wildwood’ which developed following the last Ice Age. We have evidence of this from the subfossil beetle fauna which shows that 28% of beetles known from the Wildwood period are species of open grassland, while 13% are tree canopy species and 47% are saproxylic (dependent on dead and decaying wood), but a mere 2.5% are shade-demanding species. This demonstrates that trees and open grassland, grazed by large herbivores, were the predominant vegetation cover, rather than closed canopy woodland.

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Posted by: Keith Alexander Keith Alexander is a professional invertebrate ecologist who specialises in the fauna of decaying wood and particularly the rarer and more threatened species associated with ancient and veteran trees.

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26th July 2016

The ATF welcomes its new Chair

Russell Miller and tree cropped

Russell Miller, the new Chair of the Ancient Tree Forum, introduces himself and sets out his hopes for the future of the charity

I was very excited when I discovered the Ancient Tree Forum and attended my first field meeting. It was like joining a group of like-minded friends I didn’t know I had. I was therefore intrigued when ATF advertised for a new chair and very honoured to be asked to try and fill Brian Muelaner’s shoes.

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Posted by: Russell Miller

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