The ancient tree hunt is on. I heard a story on the radio this morning about a tree, the Fortingall Yew (Taxus baccata) in Perthsire, which is guestimated to be 5000 years old. It was around when Stonehenge was built, had already been standing for 3000 years when the Romans invaded, and is thought to be the oldest living thing in Europe.
We, the public, are now being asked to help locate and record ancient trees (the UK is thought to have more than any other part of Europe) just like this. The aim is to produce an official register, as there isn’t one at the moment, and treat these trees the way should be treated - as historical monuments.
The ancient tree hunt began in 2004 and has collected more than 6000 records, with the aim of recording more than 100,000 trees by 2011. Funding has been secured from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, amongst others, to help find and protect these important features of our heritage. Ancient trees also play a vital ecological role, often supporting hundreds of different species.
Go here to get involved and find, measure and record ancient trees. If a tree is old, fat and gnarled then you should record it. You can start by hugging - 3 hugs is about right for an ancient oak. You can also search for ancient trees on this Woodland Trust database, to find out which ones you can easily visit.
For more info about the Fortingall Yew go here or here, and, if you have access, go to CAB Abstracts or the Forest Science Database (formerly TreeCD) - a search of the latter for ‘ancient’ and ‘tree’ gave 310 records.