Our sister project, the Ancient Tree Hunt, certainly picked a magnificent specimen for one of its ‘Tree of the Moment’ features this month – and its story also provides us with a great example of Wood Watching, long before it became the favourite pastime of the nation.
Woodland Trust members will read about this 250 year old hedgerow oak just north of Taunton in Somerset, in the next edition of our ‘Broadleaf’ magazine. A veteran tree with a girth of well over 6 metres, the Tarr Lane Oak is stunning, but it could have been lost forever after being earmarked for felling and it took sustained pressure to ultimately save it.
The campaign began way back in the 1980’s when local residents Jane and John Clarke spotted some activity around the tree as they were passing by. Thinking “there’s going to be trouble here”, the Clarke’s contacted Taunton Deane Borough Council, which immediately designated the oak with a Tree Preservation Order before taking the case to a Council meeting that very evening.
Thus began a rollercoaster of a campaign lasting several years. Happily, this inspiring story of tenacity and commitment ultimately led to success – the Tarr Lane Oak lives to see another century! So improved is the situation that every year or so the Tarr Lane Oak receives a visit from a specialist Arboriculturalist who checks the tree, and the initial threat has been lessened further now there is a new Estate manager.
Almost 27 years have passed since that fateful call to Taunton Deane Borough Council which kickstarted this community campaign. Has anything changed for trees?
The bad news is that our woodland heritage still needs protecting from destruction today as development, roads and the dreaded health and safety survey continue to win over clean air, healthy habitats and the overall wellbeing brought about by the sheer presence of these beautiful, precious trees – and there are more threats every day. Over 500 individuals have contacted the Woodland Trust so far this year, concerned about trees and woods under threat in their area.
And yet this story spells good news for WoodWatchers; you are not alone! The Clarke’s experience is an example of vintage WoodWatching at its best, especially as there was little awareness of the vulnerability of ancient trees at that time. The Ancient Tree Hunt already lists over 20,000 identified ancient trees in the UK – every one will have a story about how it has managed to remain to this day. Think of the battles fought to save them from the chainsaw! Share your experiences with us – your story could inspire others, too.