In 2018, the Nutfield Tree Wardens began a survey of Veteran and Ancient trees in the rural Parish of Nutfield in East Surrey. Were there any? Where would they be? These oldest trees now have greater protection under the law than before, so it is important to know where they are. It took a while – a couple of years – but that was nothing when set against the possible age of some of the trees in the landscape.
A monthly walk to discover local ancients
The Tree Wardens met one afternoon a month to walk every footpath, carrying a tape measure, a GPS phone app, a camera, and recording sheets downloaded from the Ancient Tree Inventory, which with the Woodland Trust, is spearheading a campaign to get these trees recorded.
Each walk brought surprises. When possible candidates for veteran or ancient were spotted, the girth of the trunk was measured at a height of 1.5m, a key indicator, and where possible the total height of the tree. Notes were taken: Were there signs of old pollarding? Dead wood in the crown? Holes in the trunk? Lichens? Bat roosts?
Getting the community involved
Word was also spread locally about the search, and information came in about trees in people’s gardens, and on private farmland. Commemorative trees also had to be recorded: the Oak planted for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, along with the young oaks planted in 2012 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of her great great grand-daughter. In all, 48 trees were recorded, almost all of them, from their girth, veterans.
Finding tree treasures
One possible Ancient Oak which was measured came in at 6m girth, a hedgerow oak of enormous age, and in spite of appearances, still alive.
There is also a possible champion tree on the list: Quercus petraea ‘Mespilifolia’. Other species included ash, birch, lime, beech, sequoiadendron, Scots pine; and field maple. The results of the survey have been submitted to the Ancient Tree Inventory, but they are still to be checked and verified.
During lockdown, the results were mapped, and can be found here.