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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 a trustee of the ATF. He recently retired as Forestry adviser to the Thoresby Estate, Nottinghamshire. where he managed 800 hectares of ancient woodland (230 of which is currently managed as wood pasture) 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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18th July 2016

First meeting of ATF Cumbria takes place in Geltsdale

by Ian Jack

Ian Jack, co-ordinator of the new Ancient Tree Forum Cumbria group, joined the members for their first field event this June.

The Cumbria chapter of the ATF had its inaugural meeting on a beautiful spring day in June at the magnificent pasture woodlands of Geltsdale in the foothills of the Northern Cumbria Pennines. The day was ably lead by Iris Glimmerveen who has been associated with these woodlands for the last  nineteen years.

The pasture woodlands at Geltsdale are in a truly wonderful setting and Iris is clearly at one with all that these woodlands represent and laid on a day which will be well remembered by all who participated.

The theme of the day was ‘trees within trees’ and Iris began by explaining how one of the amazing features of Geltsdale is how Rowan trees often seed themselves into niches in Alders and these two trees then age together. The Rowan does not live off the Alder but with it, both trees occupying the same space. The Rowan puts down aerial roots which helps in time to give the whole structure a fantastical appearance. Eventually the Alder succumbs to age and withers leaving the Rowan to act out a solitary role as it too becomes ancient.

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Posted by: Ian Jack Ian Jack is Head Forester at Lowther Estates, and leads the ATF Cumbria group.

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17th May 2016

My time at the top

by Brian Cleckner

Brian Muelaner

Brian Muelaner reflects on his six years leading the Ancient Tree Forum, in advance of stepping down as Chair at July’s summer forum, when Russell Miller will take on the role.

It’s hard to believe that it’s six years since I ‘volunteered’ to take on the role of Chair for the ATF.  I remember a conversation I had with Neville Fay shortly before becoming Chair, as if it were yesterday.  Nev had been chairing the ATF since time began, so naturally I turned to him to get some idea of what level of commitment I was letting myself in for. Nev kindly reassured me that all that it was more of a figurehead, and only involved chairing the two board meetings each year and writing the odd letter or two and the Chair’s annual report to Companies house.  And for some reason I believed him!

It turned out to involve a little more than that, but it’s been an incredible honour and privilege and one of the most fulfilling roles with which I’ve had the good fortune to be involved.  What’s been achieved over the past six years is quite mind boggling, all made possible by a massive team effort. One of the great strengths of the ATF is the enthusiasm, knowledge, skills and commitment of its extended board, the Trustees, the Co-opted members and our limited staff.

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Posted by: Brian Muelaner Brian is a trustee and former Chair of the Ancient Tree Forum. He worked for the National Trust for 27 years until 2014, most recently as their Ancient Tree adviser, and has extensive knowledge of wood pasture and parkland sites across England.

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