Talking ancient trees

The Ancient Tree Forum, who work with the Woodland Trust towards securing a future for ancient trees, hold regular field meetings throughout the year. The latest event was in and around Wrexham. Ancient trees were visited in a very wide range of situations in an action packed day.

It’s not often that in one event the Forum looks at and discusses trees on an industrial estate, farmland, in an urban park, a private garden and an Historic Park and Garden. Most of the trees were ancient or veteran oaks but during the day a very special ginko tree (Ginko biloba) was spotted which later turned out to be the third largest by girth in Wales, the sixth largest in the UK and the most northerly of the county champions. It’s thanks to the Ancient Tree Hunt (ATH) database that we can so easily start to compare ‘finds’ and explore the distribution of native and exotic trees. The tree is recorded on the ATH database and there is a picture of it, but as it is on a private estate permission is required to go and look at it.

An ancient oak that could have started life during the reign of Henry VIII

The focus of the day was to look at how valuable trees are protected, if at all, and to talk about the Forum and Woodland Trust’s joint campaign to improve the lot of the exceptional tree heritage that exists in Wales. The Welsh Assembly is proposing a new organisation – an Environment Agency, and when that is implemented we believe it should have a new duty to care for ancient, veteran and other heritage trees of great value. The Environmental Body should provide advice, support and where appropriate grants to their owners so there are positive incentives for landowners to take good care of their ancient trees.

It is vital that owners of trees are inspired to take care of them whether they are private householders with a massive oak in the garden such as the Broad Oak near Acton Park; farmers with historic pollards in old hedgerows; estate managers or local authority park staff.

Jill Butler, Conservation Adviser (Ancient Trees)


About Kay Haw

Assistant Conservation Adviser, Woodland Trust. Nature is my passion, especially woods and trees which are just amazing elements of life. One day (soon) I hope we humans learn to work in harmony with Mother Earth.
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4 Responses to Talking ancient trees

  1. Kay Haw says:

    Jill Butler says: Ginkos are certainly stunning and remarkable trees and there are some really astonishing ancient, champion Ginkos in the UK – search them out on the Ancient Tree Hunt map ( However, their significance for biodiversity will be strongly associated with their location of origin in a small part of China. We shouldn’t overlook the value of our native trees for biodiversity, land reclamation and longevity and by focusing on establishing all our trees we will be helping all the diverse species associated with them and enhancing our quintessential UK landscapes.

  2. I grow naturally seeded ginkgo trees for biodiversity and land reclamation. So little is known about their land healing capabilities, longevity and even fire wall possibiliities. I think the world would greatly benefit from seeing these living fossils return to the natural landscape. What do you think?

  3. jillbutleratf says:

    Ancient trees are certainly very rich in wildlife. As they age, trees change and the habitat they provide is very different to that of a young tree. Professor Oliver Rackham has written: ‘A 500 year old oak is a whole ecosystem of creatures for which 10,000 oaks that are only 200 years old are no use at all’. This includes the charismatic creatures like owls and bats that rely on the cavities, holes and flaking bark so characteristic of ancient trees created by decay and the aging process.

    We now know that hollowing of trees is entirely natural – indeed all ancient trees are hollow or hollowing and it may be a survival strategy. The decay process releases locked up nutrients held in the deadwood in the middle of the tree so they can be recycled into new growth. As a result the tree becomes lighter and more flexible and maybe better able to withstand high winds so characteristic of the UK.

  4. rmarkham says:

    yes these amazing old trees should be looked after not cut down–and they are an amazing ,thriving home for insects of all kinds–they are also strong by being hollow not weak as is thought by some

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