Conservation charity the Woodland Trust is challenging people across the UK to find and map ancient trees. This is 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 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. It has revealed 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.”
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.