See also Ancient Tree Inventory
The Wildlife Trusts have an internet guide offering great opportunities to see awe-inspiring trees which have shrugged off several centuries. ‘40 great places to see ancient and unusual trees’ is part of our ‘great places…’ series at Ancient Tree Guide
There is no doubt that ancient trees are a rare beauty when it comes to the wonders of the natural world. Thanks to The Wildlife Trusts’s guide you may find that they are closer to home than you thought. Many of the trees have been around longer than the British Empire, none of them have moved for hundreds of years, but the changes witnessed by these trees have been vast.
The misshapen oaks at Brankley Pastures in Staffordshire are a brilliant example of the type of gnarly, old trees on show, whose trunks are full of crevices and holes that support a myriad invertebrates.
In Shropshire, there are 200 ancient holly trees on the north-east edge of the Stiperstones, which owe their long life to the practice of winter cutting to provide animal fodder.
Not many individual trees have as much history attached to them as the Donkey Tree at Pamber Forest in Hampshire, which is around 350 years old. According to legend, a man from Tadley made a daily journey through the Forest with his donkey. But one day the donkey stopped under a large oak tree and refused to budge. Eventually the man gave up in desperation and tied the donkey to the tree, marking its place in folklore and helping to save it from potential destruction for hundreds of years.
Whether they’re broad, tall, fragile or stout, they all have a story to tell. The only way to hear it is to feel their presence, creaking in the wind or perhaps casting an ominous shadow. If they could speak, you would hear about the vital role each one has played in maintaining the natural environment for time immemorial.
“Trees that have lived for hundreds of years are particularly special as they provide a unique and highly valuable habitat for a wide array of wildlife, said Paul Wilkinson, Head of Living Landscape at The Wildlife Trusts. “Thousands of species live in the fissures, cracks, hollows, cavities, dead wood and loose bark provided by ancient trees. Many of the birds, insects and mammals that we can see today in our ancient woodlands are not found anywhere else. They owe their livelihood to those first trees setting their deep roots in the ground centuries ago, preparing for endless years of service to the natural environment. For this reason, The Wildlife Trusts endeavour to prolong the lives of these trees even further and hope to protect them for many generations to come.”
Just one quick look through The Wildlife Trusts’s great places to see ancient and unusual trees, and you’re sure to find a nature reserve or woodland near you worthy of a visit. So take advantage of this opportunity and experience the majesty of an ancient tree first hand. Few things can give you a better sense of perspective than a tree that’s shrugged off several centuries.
All photos © by the photographers and courtesy The Wildlife Trusts
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