Last month our Countrycare team recorded the 3,000th veteran tree in the Epping Forest district. By the end of May 2014 the total number of veterans trees recorded is 3,112. This figure includes ancient trees and together with 883 notable trees, the total number of recorded tress is 4,045.
Since 2006 Countrycare and its volunteers and tree wardens have been recording veteran trees in the District as part of a competition to find the 50 Favourite Trees in the district. Trees were nominated by members of the public and judged. 50 trees were selected and a book was produced. This evolved into a project to record as many of the district’s veteran trees as possible.
You can see the database of trees on the 50 Favourite Trees website.
An Oak in Chigwell - 5.9m girth and over 500 years old
An Oak in Willingale - 5.7m girth and over 500 years old
Veteran tree in Theydon Garnon - 6.5m girth and over 500 years old
The data shared with the Essex Wildlife Trust to contribute to their biological records database, used to help in planning decisions. It also goes to the Ancient Tree Hunt who map the country and plot the trees on.
Epping and Hainault Forests
The Epping Forest District is blessed with the remnants of the great forests of Essex, which now survive as Epping and Hainault Forests. These 2 areas form a collection of veteran trees of European importance with Epping Forest having over 50,000 veteran trees. These areas were pollarded woodlands (the successive cutting of trees above the browsing height of deer and cattle).
Other woods, such as the Lambourne Woods near Abridge, were coppiced. But the widespread practice of pollarding was not confined to the forests and has left us with a legacy of many old worked trees. They mark the skeleton of the ancient countryside as they are found in the oldest hedgerows and mark the boundaries of the oldest woodlands.
Even one veteran native tree can be a wildlife habitat in its own right. It is well known that Oaks host a huge variety of species, but it is only the big old trees with holes in the stem and decayed heartwood, that do this. Recording and mapping these trees will inform us of habitat connectivity between ancient woodlands and allows us to view the District at a landscape level.
Helen Read, Veteran Tree Initiative 1999 – “The term veteran tree is one that is not capable of precise definition but encompasses trees defined by three guiding principles. Firstly, they are of interest biologically, aesthetically or culturally because of their age. Secondly, they are in the ancient stage of their life (the last third) and lastly that they are old relative to others of the same species.”