Help put our ancient trees on the map
A cloud of creamy-white scented blossom is set to transform our countryside’s green hedgerows. That’s the hawthorn blossom (or May blossom) which brightens each May and hints that summer is on its way.
The Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt is asking for your help in finding and recording Northern Ireland’s undiscovered, lone hawthorn trees. And, thanks to May’s riotous blossom, they won’t be able to hide.
Our beloved hawthorn is awash with contradiction and folklore. It’s hardy, thorny and gnarly, with an ability to grow in the wildest and harshest of spots. Yet, with clusters of cascading blossom, it’s soft and pretty.
In the middle ages it was thought that placing a hawthorn branch above the door would prevent evil spirits from entering the home. Yet there was also a belief that bringing hawthorn blossom into the house would result in illness or death.
Superstitions still exist today. Throughout Ireland you will find individual, isolated hawthorn trees or ‘fairy thorns’ which have survived decades and centuries. Folklore explains that the trees are inhabited by fairies and therefore cannot be cut down or damaged without incurring their often fatal wrath.
Whatever your belief, the species provides unquestionable shelter and shade for livestock and wildlife. And in autumn and winter its deep red berries (or haws) are among those most favoured by birds.
Gregor Fulton of the Woodland Trust says: “This species can live as long as 400 years and we believe that there are some wonderful veteran fairy thorns right across Northern Ireland. They are steeped in folklore and legend, and an important part of our landscape. Yet despite their significance, they seem to be overlooked and we have very few recorded on our database.” He continues: “With a helping hand from members of the public, we want to give them the recognition they deserve. You could say that we’re giving their mystical, fairy guardians a helping hand!”
The Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt is a five-year project to record at least 100,000 of the UK’s oldest trees by 2011. The website already has records of more than 63,000 ancient, veteran and notable trees and if you select the name of your county, and tick the ancient tree box, you can see all the fantastic trees already recorded in your neck of the woods.
The Ancient Tree Hunt website is packed with tips for tree hunters, including how to recognise an ancient tree, measure its girth and how to identify different species. Find out more and record online at www.AncientTreeHunt.org.uk
Notes to editors
For media enquiries contact:
Kaye Coates at the Woodland Trust’s Bangor Office on
028 9127 5787; email firstname.lastname@example.org or
The Woodland Trust Press Office on 01476 581121;
The Woodland Trust:
The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity. It has over 500,000 members and supporters.
The Trust has three key aims: i) to enable the creation of more native woods and places rich in trees ii) to protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future iii) to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees
Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres). Access to its sites is free.
Here in Northern Ireland the Woodland Trust cares for 49 woods. These woods contain a mix of recently planted woodland, mature woodland and ancient woodland (that’s land continuously wooded since at least 1600).