Conservation charity the Woodland Trust is challenging people across the UK to find and map ancient trees, after its Ancient Tree Inventory project helped confirm the biggest collection of ancient oak trees in Europe.
Staff at Blenheim Park have been surveying oak trees for several years, and have recorded an astonishing 291 living oak trees with a girth of at least 5m. 220 of these veterans stand in High Park, a fragile Site of Special Scientific Interest which is currently closed to the public. 71 can be seen elsewhere in Blenheim Park. This data – collected primarily by Kew’s oak researcher Aljos Farjon – has been compared with other records on the Woodland Trust’s ancient tree inventory, revealing that the collection ranks highest across all of Europe.
It is vital that ancient trees are mapped; ancient and veteran trees were recently given the same protection as built heritage under the National Planning Policy Framework – but if they are left unidentified, they cannot be protected.
Anyone can search for and record trees on the inventory – which has been running for over a decade. There are already 160,000 trees listed, but thousands more to add.
Kylie Harrison-Mellor, citizen science officer for the Woodland Trust, said: “Ancient and veteran trees are the fattest, knobbliest, and most fascinating specimens of trees. They have countless stories to tell and support huge networks of native flora and fauna.
“They were recently given better protection under the National Planning Policy Framework... but unless we know where they are, we can’t campaign against their damage and destruction.
“By recording with the ancient tree inventory, members of the public can take an active part in defending some of our most valuable habitats. We know there are thousands out there we haven’t found yet – who knows, there could still be a bigger collection of ancients waiting to be discovered.”
Aljos Farjon, a botanist, added: “Of all the sites with ancient oaks I have seen, High Park is the most amazing, it’s like stepping back into the distant wild past of our country.”
To find out more about ancient trees, and to add a tree to the inventory go to the Woodland Trust’s new Ancient Tree Inventory website.
The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.
The Trust has three key aims: i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.
Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.
Blenheim Park fact file: • Blenheim has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest since 1956. • Some of the ancient, stag-headed oak pollards of the park may be direct lineal descendants of those recorded in the Domesday Book. • The largest tree on the site is 10.8 metres in circumference. There is one other tree on the site over 10m in girth, and three others playing catch-up at over 9m in girth. • 213 of the 267 oaks are still alive.
What makes a tree ‘ancient’? Descriptions of ancient, veteran and notable trees can be found on the Ancient Tree Inventory website.