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30th March 2017

Working with the National Trust to protect our ancient trees

Hannah Solloway

ATF field visit with the National Trust at Borrowdale, Cumbria

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.

 Chris Knapman

Dame Helen Ghosh, and Brian Muelaner seal the ATF’s Concordat at the Ankerwycke Yew

Following on from this public act of a shared commitment for the long term care and protection of ancient trees and their successors, the ATF and the National Trust formed a working partnership group.  Previously the Trust had supported the ATF’s work by allowing me to take on the role of Chair of the ATF, as I was working at the time as the National Trust’s Ancient Tree Adviser, and to devote up to around 40% of my working time to ATF business.  This generous funding enabled the ATF to develop into an organisation with paid staff, some involved in large European- funded projects. A Development Officer was able to take on day-to-day operational tasks including management of our website, assistance with events, and fundraising.

Avenue at Wimpole

Our links with the National Trust have also enabled the ATF to visit and run field events at many of their estates and parklands which are rich in ancient and other veteran trees. At Wimpole in Cambridgeshire for example (pictured above), where we held our Autumn field visit in 2016, we were shown around by Simon Damant, one of the estate’s managers, whose extensive knowledge of Wimpole, enthusiasm for the site’s biodiversity value, and sympathetic management of the site’s veteran trees, greatly impressed ATF’s trustees and supporters. We were able to discuss and demonstrate good practice in management techniques such as succession planting, conservation grazing and deadwood management.

Through the formation of the partnership group, the ATF now has a direct channel through which to share information, provide constructive criticism and support and champion exemplar work at National Trust properties.  I was recently very impressed for example, with the great work taking place in Leigh Woods near Bristol (pictured below), as described in an article in Essential Arb magazine. Here, the National Trust’s area range, Tor Stanfield, clearly shares the ATF’s vision – for ancient and other veteran trees, their wildlife, and their heritage and cultural values to be safeguarded now and in the future.

Brian Muelaner

Haloing work at Leigh Woods near Bristol

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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