22nd November 2017
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.
14th November 2017
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?
9th November 2017
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.
19th October 2017
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.
9th August 2017
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.
8th August 2017
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.
7th August 2017
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”.
3rd August 2017
Caroline Davis, ATF’s Vice Chair, writes about her work earlier this year, to produce a response to the Government’s Housing White Paper, in order to improve protection for aged and veteran trees in government policy.
Working in close partnership with the Woodland Trust, we set out a full response to the Housing White Paper, ‘Fixing our broken housing market’. In particular, we jointly proposed an amendment to a key section (paragraph 118), in order to clarify the need to protect aged and veteran trees and ancient woodland as irreplaceable habitat. We put forward the following wording, and with strong behind the scenes lobbying by the Woodland Trust, we hope this will be accepted: ‘Loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees found outside ancient woodland, resulting from development proposals should be wholly exceptional’
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.