15th June 2015
Historic pact sealed at Magna Carta site
800 years after the sealing of the Magna Carta by King John, the Director General of the National Trust, Dame Helen Ghosh, has sealed an historic document at the same site, in a special ceremony to reaffirm its commitment to ancient and other veteran trees.
‘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.’ So begins the Ancient Tree Forum Concordat which Dame Helen signed and sealed on 11 June near Runnymede in Surrey. The document goes on to set out a vision for ancient and other veteran trees to be safeguarded, and outlines the commitment it expects from signatories such as the National Trust. These include completing an inventory of the location of all ancient and culturally important trees, and working in partnership to secure no avoidable loss of ancient trees.
In June 1215, King John’s sealing of the Magna Carta heralded the beginning of parliamentary democracy and the supremacy of law. Some accounts say that this historic event took place by the River Thames at Runnymede, while others say it was on what is now the far side of the Thames by the ancient Ankerwycke Yew. Either way, this exceptional tree, which is estimated to be around 2,500 years old, is a living monument to those historic events, and it has now witnessed the sealing of the agreement between the National Trust and the Ancient Tree Forum.
The National Trust is the single largest custodian of ancient trees in the UK, and the iconic Ankerwycke yew is thought to be their oldest tree. ‘The Ankerwycke Yew is arguably the most important tree in the English-speaking world, with its connection to democracy and freedom under law’, says Brian Muelaner, Chair of the Ancient Tree Forum, ‘so it is fitting that the National Trust sealed our Concordat there, and we are delighted that they have shown their continued commitment to ancient trees.’
Dame Helen Ghosh said of the National Trust’s ancient and other veteran trees: ‘The Ankerwycke Yew is a symbol of the importance of ancient trees in the life of the National Trust. We are immensely proud of the ancient and veteran trees we look after across the country. We have species of all kinds and from many continents, and our visitors never fail to be awestruck by the centuries of history and exploration that they represent. We must ensure that we have the skills and knowledge we need to look after them in the future.’