Along wіth their hіѕtоrісаl or cultural ѕіgnіfісаnсе, our аnсіеnt trees аrе loved by communities bесаuѕе оf thеіr ѕресіаl appearance, the rare fungi, plants аnd аnіmаlѕ thеу ѕuрроrt and thе stories аѕѕосіаtеd wіth them.
Thе number оf ancient trееѕ іn thе UK іѕ еxсерtіоnаl соmраrеd wіth elsewhere in northern Eurоре. Sо far mоrе thаn 120,000 rесоrdѕ оf the nаtіоn’ѕ favourite аnсіеnt and оthеr nоtаblе trееѕ hаvе bееn аddеd tо a lіvе database.
Experts Only Please
Ultimately, working on ancient trees is a dangerous and often tricky endeavour thanks to the tools and climbing required and the legality around trees. For this reason, only experienced contractors who carry tree surgeon insurance should undertake the work.
Survivors over Centuries
These ancient trees have survived through a number of factors. Many were ‘working trees’ in that their wood and leaves were used as part of everyday life. The larger trees were too time consuming to cut down, with the additional risk of felling and then finding the inside of the tree rotten, thereby reducing the value of the timber.
Many landscape parks and changes in landscapes have incorporated veteran trees to help lend the parkland an air of antiquity. Many veteran trees have also been subject to being revered or respected and have been left to grow, such as yew trees in churchyards.
Ways to Identify a Veteran Tree
Due to the variable criteria that defines veteran trees, knowing how to actually identify them can be difficult. There are some rules of thumb that exist to help indicate what is and isn’t a veteran. They are:
- Girth that is considered large for the tree species concerned
- Major trunk cavities or progressive hollowing
- Naturally forming water pools
- Physical damage to trunk, decay or bark loss
- Large quantity of dead wood in the canopy
- Sap runs
- Crevices in the bark, under branches or on the root plate sheltered from direct rainfall
- Fungal fruiting bodies (e.g. from heart rotting species)
- High number of interdependent wildlife species
- Epiphytic plants
- High aesthetic interest, cultural/historic value or an ‘old look’
- Show indications of past management
- Stand on a prominent position in the landscape
These factors can sometimes appear on damaged trees, such as those harmed by fire. Some veteran trees may have very few of these factors.
Essentially, veteran trees are hugely important not only to historical studies about land management and the shifting shape of British parkland, but also to biological lifeforms which co-exist with these ancient trees. They provide a link to important genetic material, as some are descendants of the wildwoods which colonised Britain after the last ice age. Their rings are indicators of climate change, cutting treatments, pollution levels and other chemical factors.
Veteran tree legalisation
It’s clear that veteran trees are an important part of protecting British landscapes, but when approaching veteran tree care there are legal factors to be aware of. A tree under a ‘tree preservation order’ from the local planning authority shares similarities to listed buildings in that it cannot be felled or worked on without permission