News story

Military hunters hit the target in search for ancient trees

Staff from the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) have joined forces with military colleagues and industry partners to unearth and record centuries-old ancient trees on Defence sites across the country.

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And the enthusiastic Defence estate managers have already hit their 2011 target of recording 1,000 such specimens on Ministry of Defence (MOD) land as they contribute to the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt (ATH).

This spring saw the completion of a series of training days and workshops across the country run by the Woodland Trust for the MOD, its industry partners and Armed Forces personnel involved in the management of the rural and urban Defence estate.

The project involves thousands of people in finding and mapping all the fat, old trees across the UK to create a comprehensive living database of ancient trees - the first step towards cherishing and caring for them.

DIO Senior Estate Surveyor (Forestry) Jon Watson said:

This comprehensive survey will result in a much better understanding of the number of ancient trees across the MOD estate. By identifying and recording their details on a national database, it will ensure that these hugely important keepers of time can be retained and protected.

From the ancient yew trees on the limestone crags above Swaledale, in Yorkshire, to the medieval oaks of Yardley Chase, in Northamptonshire and the gnarled oaks at Sennybridge, in Wales, the MOD estate retains some of the oldest trees in the country.

It is thought that some of the ancient yew trees on Catterick Training Area are over 2,000 years old - some of the oldest trees in the country, which may well have been used for shelter by Roman soldiers, or Viking raiders.

The project aims to promote further understanding and appreciation of the wealth of ancient and veteran trees on the MOD estate, and will be carried out with help from the industry partners involved with the management of the training estates.

Edward Parker, Ancient Tree Hunt project manager at the Woodland Trust, said:

Our ancient trees have played such a huge part in British history and particularly in our military past, supporting our war efforts across all three Services and providing living memorials to battles and the fallen.

It is particularly fitting that this partnership can now track down surviving ancient and veteran trees that connect us to the forests which provided the materials for war, or were the sites of famous battles, over more than a thousand years. By identifying where they are now, we are taking the first step in securing their future.

Landmarc Support Services works in partnership with DIO to manage the Defence training estate. Ross Guyton, Woodland Management & Arboricultural Advisor said:

We are delighted to be assisting in the recording, future management and preservation of these priceless national monuments. We have always been conscious of their presence on the Defence training estate.

We have been treating the management of them very sensitively in the past, so much so that we have been delivering specific ancient tree management workshops to our rural estate management staff.

Everyone can join in the Ancient Tree Hunt, 2011 is the final year of the project, which is looking to record 100,000 trees online. For more information call the Ancient Tree Hunt on 01476 581135 or visit the website, see Related Links.

Published 14 June 2011