Telling tree stories

A new campaign launched today is calling on people to share their stories of why trees and woods matter to them.

Coppice and thicket scrub in the north east section of Hatfield Forest, Essex.

The history of Hatfield Forest in Essex dates back over a thousand years

The stories will be collected together in a Charter for Trees, Woods and People and published in November 2017, 800 years after the original Charter of the Forests was signed by Henry III, restoring people’s rights of access to the Royal Forests.

The National Trust is one of 43 organisations involved in the campaign, led by the Woodland Trust.

At a time of unprecedented pressures on trees and woods, the charter will record the relationships between people and trees, setting out the enormous benefits woods provide the UK economy and society.

As a national charity caring for 25,000 hectares of woodland and thousands of ancient and veteran trees in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, The National Trust has  seen first-hand the impact of climate change and diseases like Ash Dieback.

But we also know from the millions of visitors to our woods, parks and gardens every year that people feel a real love for trees – and are fascinated by the stories of trees like the Dorset sycamore under whose branches the Tolpuddle Martyrs reputedly met or the majestic 1,000 year old Quarry Oak at Croft Castle in Herefordshire.

Ashridge Estate, credit National Trust Images, Michael Caldwell

Ashridge is the Chilterns comes live with the autumn colour every year and its one of the best National Trust places for ancient trees

Ray Hawes, Head of Forestry at the National Trust, says: “How people value trees and woods is changing”, he says. “In the past they were valued mainly for the tangible products they provided, like timber and fuel.

“Today, many people say they love trees. Millions of people enjoy visiting woods in the UK without always realising the wider contributions that these places make to society as a whole and what needs to be done to maintain woods for future generations.

“Healthy woods have many uses and can be adapted to changing needs, but there are increasing challenges to maintain them in a condition which will enable this.”

By encouraging people to share why trees matter to them, the campaign launched today aims to capture the value of trees to people’s lives – as well as connecting people to the work that goes in to keeping our trees and woods healthy.

The campaign will recruit a network of local ‘Charter Champions’ from across the UK to represent their communities in the development of the charter. Funding will be available to help local groups in events and projects aimed at reconnecting people and trees.

 

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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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Frogs eager to breed in Cornwall

National Trust Area Ranger for the Lizard, Rachel Holder, looks at why frogs appear to be so eager to breed in Cornwall following the discovery of frogspawn in November.

The common frog Rana temporaria is a familiar sight across the UK. In any shallow standing water you are likely to come across tell-tale clumps of spawn, and tadpoles and froglets vying for survival, not above eating their siblings if needs must!

But just when can you expect to find frogspawn and tadpoles in your local pond? The simple answer might be spring for spawn and summer for tadpoles, but delve deeper and this doesn’t quite stand up to scrutiny.

Here on the Lizard, in the far south-west of the UK, our mild climate gives lots of species a head start, but our frogs have taken this further than most! This year I first saw frog spawn on 21st November, which is early, but not unheard of in a Cornish context.

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Frogspawn found on the Lizard by National Trust Ranger, Rachel Holder. Credit National Trust images, Rachel Holder.

The gamble of getting ahead in the breeding game must be worth taking, and the risk of a severe cold-snap which could freeze the spawn worth braving.

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Fingle Woods reaches £3.8m milestone as charities celebrate purchase

Despite the disappointing news announced this morning about the un-successful bid by the the National Trust to acquire a section of iconic estuary and coastline in Devon, it has been able to celebrate the full acquisition of Fingle Woods on the edge of Dartmoor with the Woodland Trust today.

The two charities have reached the £3.8m funding target which means the entire 825 acre site is now fully in their care. Continue reading

Change the clocks and give yourself some more wild time

To celebrate the arrival of British Summer Time and the first day of spring, The Wild Network is encouraging parents to use the extra hour of daylight to take the kids outdoors and get some more ‘wild time’.

Children playing at Belton House, Lincolnshire. Credit NT Images

Children playing at Belton House, Lincolnshire. Credit NT Images

During the colder winter months the battle to get our children away from their gadgets can be a challenge, but with the arrival of spring it’s time to reunite them with the outdoors.

 

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Visitors can’t walk 500 miles, but 27 should be plenty as charities reopen pathways in Fingle Woods

Woodland Trust appeals for further donations

Visitors to Fingle Woods in the Dartmoor National Park in Devon are now able to explore 45km (27 miles) of newly reopened footpaths through the 825 acre site – the size of around 460 football pitches – thanks to the Woodland Trust and National Trust. It is the first time the routes have been open in 10 years. Continue reading

National Trust statement on Ash Dieback Chalara fraxinea

Following the discovery of the deadly Ash Dieback Chalara fraxinea disease in the East of the country, the National Trust welcomes the fact that the Government has now introduced the ban on the importation of ash trees into the UK which came into force yesterday. 

The Trust is also pointing to the need to provide sufficient investment into tree disease research and more restrictions on plant movement.

It is also working closely with other key organisations and is prioritising the checking of ash trees thought to be currently the most at risk in the South East and East of the country.

Ian Wright, plant health specialist at the National Trust said: “We welcome the Government’s ban on the import of ash trees into the UK.  We are very concerned about what effect this disease will have on a key historic species – and on our landscapes. 

“As well as the threat to ash trees and woods across the country, we are particularly concerned about the risk to some of the magnificent old ash trees in our parkland and ancient woods. We have at least 300 of these on our register of veteran trees and many are over 300 years old. If this devastating disease took hold it would radically change some of our most special landscapes and places forever. These ash trees are also incredibly important for the rich flora and fauna only found on such ancient trees, which includes rare lichens, mosses and wood boring insects.

“A high level focus on tree disease is needed with more funding made available by Government for urgent work on how diseases spread and how to develop greater resilience in our woods.  We also believe there may be a need to put greater restrictions on International European trade in plants to reduce the risk of such disease spread.

“We are working closely with the Forestry Commission (FC), the Food & Environment Research Agency (Fera) and the Woodland Trust among many others to keep abreast of developments, and will take on board any guidance that is issued.

“We are currently checking the sites we believe to be at most risk in the South East and East of the country, prioritising where our most important ash trees are.

“We have already halted any planned ash tree planting on our land and are now weighing up the risk to ash trees of planting of other species that might be carrying the disease.  Our outdoor teams are already undertaking surveys of their ash trees while leaves are still on them to see if any are showing signs of the disease.  We will be referring any suspected cases to Fera and FC.

“We hope the Government will respond to the calls for an urgent summit to discuss ash dieback.”

Press wishing to interview Ian Wright should contact Jeannette Heard in the National Trust press office on 01793 817706 or 07884 473396 or email jeannette.heard@nationaltrust.org.uk

Notes:

1.  There is an estimated 80 million ash trees in the UK – a third of our entire tree population.  Ash is found throughout the country and grows in most soil types.  It regenerates profusely, and as climate changes, oak and beech woods are likely to become more dependant on ash in the future.

2.   In the early 1990s severe dieback of ash (Fraxinus excelsior) was noted in north-eastern Poland.  Trees of all ages were affected and typically displayed small necrotic patches on their stems and branches which later developed into girdling lesions resulting in wilting of leaves, tip dieback of branches and mortality of trees.   Initially, the cause(s) of the dieback were unclear but a species of Chalara was frequently isolated from lesions on symptomatic trees and by the mid-2000s this was recognised as both a new fungal species Chalara fraxinea and as the primary pathogen involved in the causation of ash dieback.

3.   Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in Britain is the third most commonly recorded broadleaved species highlighted in the most recent Census of Woodlands and Trees, and is the second most widely planted broadleaved tree. Ash is found on a huge variety of site types, calcareous/acid, lowland/upland and throughout the UK.  Ash is an important tree in terms of its timber value and a key component of many habitats and feature of most landscapes.  It is also thought that ash will become a much more extensive and important element of many existing woods as it regenerates profusely and does not appear to suffer serious bark stripping by grey squirrels as do many other native broadleaved species. Because of these valuable characteristics, existing beech woodlands, PAWS restoration areas and even oak woods are likely to become more dependant on ash to survive as healthy and productive broadleaved woodlands.

4.   Since the early 2000s, Chalara fraxinea has spread rapidly across continental Europe with ash dieback now reported from the majority of European countries.  During 2012 interceptions of ash saplings infected with C. fraxinea, were found both in a number of key UK nurseries and shortly after out-planting. The outbreaks/original infection might have occurred as far back as 2009.

5.   Despite the detection of ash dieback in out-planted ash saplings, the pest is not yet considered to be established in the natural environment in the UK, since the infected plants are likely to have harboured the disease prior to planting and there is currently no evidence to indicate that transmission to other trees has occurred. However, the rapid establishment of the pest throughout many European countries, and the existence of appropriate growth conditions for the pest suggest that in the UK the potential for establishment is high and therefore the risk very high.

6.   The National Trust looks after 25,000 hectares (61,776 acres) of woodland and forest. We also conserve historic parks, gardens, commons and pasture-woodlands, where individual ancient ash trees are a highly prized resource – for their beauty and for the plants and animals growing on them – many of them direct descendants from the original Wildwood. The loss of these individual ash trees would mean the entire loss of these species from a site and even a region.