NATIONAL TRUST rangers on the Felbrigg Estate have this week been helping to ensuring the survival of Norfolk’s rare beech trees.
Rangers are using rope lassos to collect ten kilogrammes of beech mast (seed) for Kew Gardens’ Millennium Seed Bank at the organisation’s Wakehurst estate in West Sussex.
Once collected, the seeds will be stored by the Millennium Seed Bank in sub-zero temperatures in vaults deep beneath the Sussex countryside.
Richard Daplyn, Deputy Head Ranger on the National Trust’s Felbrigg Estate, said: “It’s extraordinary to think that seeds from our trees could help ensure the survival of the UK’s woods in the future. Separated from the UK’s other beech trees by their coastal location, our Norfolk beeches developed a distinct genetic make-up found nowhere else in Britain.
“Despite this week’s wet weather we managed to collect a few bags of seed – using a process that’s simple, but exhausting. Using a catapult to lasso a rope over the beech’s branch, we shake the tree. The beech mast then fall onto a ground sheet below.”
About Felbrigg’s beech trees (Fagus sylvatica)
- There are approximately 70 ancient beech trees on the Felbrigg Estate.
- The ancient trees are up to 300 years old.
- The trees at Felbrigg are genetically distinct from the rest of the UK’s beech tree population. It is thought that this is a consequence of Felbrigg’s coastal location, with the sea just to the north of the estate.
- The estate has a long tradition of forestry. A seventeenth century owner began planting woodland on the estate after being inspired by Sylva, John Evelyn’s 1664 treatise on trees.
- The trees have inspired a more recent passion. In the 1970s one estate worker carved lyrics from pop songs into the trees – hoping to impress his lover. They include Rod Stewart’ 1977 hit (If loving you is wrong) I don’t want to be right.
Clare Trivedi, UK National Tree Seed Project Co-ordinator at Kew Gardens, said: “Building up our seed collections of the nation’s favourite and most important tree species is a vital step in combating the plant pests and diseases that threaten our best loved trees – and are already changing Britain’s landscapes forever.”