Custodians of living history

The Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Specialist, Jill Butler, writes about her favourite National Trust trees and the threats facing the UK’s historic trees.

“As a tree archaeologist, I don’t find it very surprising that the National Trust for England, Wales and Northern Ireland is one of the major custodians of ancient and other veteran trees.

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

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

“One of the most special on my list would be the Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede in Surrey. It is thought to be the location where King John, almost 800 years to the day, sealed the Magna Carta. Yews, which can live such long lives, were often used to distinguish burial or religious sites or venues for special occasions.

“The National Trust’s Ankerwycke Yew, Shugborough Yew and Newton’s Apple Tree were, quite rightly, shortlisted in this year’s Tree of the Year competition for England run by the Woodland Trust. The Woodland Trust believes that these, along with other National Trust trees like the Tolpuddle Martyr’s Sycamore, should be on a Register of Trees of National Special Interest. This would be a means of giving top recognition to the part they play in our history and landscape, as we do for many other national assets.

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