You could say that the Pontfadog Oak, which has catastrophically collapsed and died, deserved the title of Wales’ National Tree. A more historic tree would be hard to find. The Welsh Prince Owain Gwynedd rallied his army under this tree in 1157 before taking on, and defeating, the English King Henry ll at the battle of Crogen nearby. The tree is also referred to by George Borrow in his book ‘Wild Wales’ in 1862.
The Pontfadog Oak was also larger almost than life. It had a massive girth of nearly 13 metres making it the third fattest of both of the two native oaks (sessile and pedunculate) in the UK. Some experts thought it might be well over 1,000 years old.
What a sad day. No wonder ancient tree enthusiasts are calling for funding for a state resting place for its remains. Why not in recognition of its long service to its country? Every day of its long life it has provided oxygen, cleaned the air, provided one of the most important habitats for biodiversity and clearly for hundreds of years has been an icon in this part of Wales. Its record on the Ancient Tree Hunt database will now have to be amended to ‘lost’ and a new national champion for Wales identified.
This venerable old tree has certainly had a lot to cope with over the past few weeks, with heavy snow, a prolonged cold snap and then last night’s high winds. But the Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw) believes that this sad case illustrates how badly we are failing to provide adequate protection for our ancient trees at present.
Just last December, Coed Cadw presented a petition, bearing over 5,300 names, to the Welsh Assembly, as part of the campaign calling for better protection for our ancient, veteran and heritage trees and in particular, support for the owners of trees in caring for them, just as the owners of listed buildings can receive financial support.
Also last year, a group of experts from the Ancient Tree Forum visited the Pontfadog Oak and put together a list of actions that they believed could help conserve it. Although the total cost was only around £5,700, these actions were never taken as no funding source was available. No one will ever know whether taking these actions would have saved this tree.
Moray Simpson, Tree Officer for Wrexham, said: “I’m absolutely gutted. The only good thing that may come out of this tragic loss is that the Welsh Government will now hopefully put in place a system for assistance and grant aid for such iconic trees.”
He added: “For such a valuable tree, it would be good to try and save the fallen parts of the tree for posterity and to show future generations what we had and what was lost due to the nation not doing enough to save these trees.” Others have called for some of the live material to be collected for grafting or micro-propogation. Fortunately some far sighted people previously collected acorns and have grown on some saplings with some of this oaks genes. Long may they live too.
The King is dead, long live the King.
Everyone at the Woodland Trust is devastated to see this wonderful tree lost like this. If you feel the same, feel free to leave your condolences in the comments below…
Jill Butler, Conservation Adviser (Ancient Trees)