Good girth! Hughenden horse-chestnut breaks UK record to kick off National Tree Week

A 300 year old horse-chestnut tree (Aesculus hippocastanum) on the National Trust’s Hughenden estate in Buckinghamshire has been declared the largest horse-chestnut in the country.

Marking the start of National Tree Week, this veteran tree which stands in 275 hectares (680 acres) of Hughenden parkland, has a girth measurement of 7.33 metres (over 24 feet) and it’s this enormous girth which clinched its champion tree status on the National Tree Register.   

Measuring up for size - Hughenden's champion Horse Chestnut. Credit Steve Parsons & PA

Measuring up for size – Hughenden’s champion Horse Chestnut. Credit Steve Parsons & PA

Steve Kirkpatrick, National Trust Ranger for Hughenden says: “We are so proud of this tree. It’s impossible to date precisely but it’s certainly over 300 years old, so it pre-dates many of the other trees at Hughenden which were planted by our former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, who lived here for 33 years in the 19th Century.

“Disraeli loved trees. He famously said; ‘when I come to Hughenden I pass the first week sauntering about the park examining all my trees, and the second examining my books’.

“He loved to plant trees around the estate and during his time here tripled the size of the parkland. Although few remain now, the landscape still reflects what he set out to do in terms of creating a parkland full of wonderful specimens to include cedar of Lebanon and Deodar cedar.”

National Trust Ranger Steve Kirkpatrick in the champion horse chestnut at Hughenden. Credit Steve Parsons & PA

National Trust Ranger Steve Kirkpatrick in the champion horse chestnut at Hughenden. Credit Steve Parsons & PA

Until the Hughenden chestnut tree claimed this crown, the largest known was at Whitchurch in Hampshire which is 13 centimetres smaller at 7.20 metres.

Steve continues: “Hughenden’s new champion has reached this size because it’s been allowed to grow unhindered, was planted in good soil; and because it’s on the flood plain has benefitted from plenty of nutrients over the years.”

Other national champion trees cared for by the Trust include the tallest Scots pine in the country at Cragside in Northumberland and the tallest oak at Stourhead in Wiltshire – both 40 metres, over 131 feet, in height.

The conservation charity also looks after more than 30,000 notable or veteran trees across the 25,000 hectares (61,776 acres) of woodland and 135 landscape sites within its care thanks to its ranger teams and thousands of outdoor volunteers.

Other significant trees in its care include the Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede in Surrey – thought to be the Trust’s oldest tree at 2,500 years old and The Old Man of Calke, an ancient oak thought to be between 1,000 and 1,200 years old which can be found at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire.

The ancient Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede in Surrey. Credit John Miller

The ancient Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede in Surrey. Credit John Miller

National Tree Week runs until 7 December.

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