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Why ancient trees matter

Why do ancient trees matter?

Ancient trees are of historic interest and a valuable part of our cultural heritage. Each individual tree is a survivor from the past and a relic of a former landscape. They are a living document of past management practices and ways of life.

Who knows what momentous dramas these craggy faces have witnessed throughout their lives? What rare and unique wonders do their cracks and hollows hide?

Cromwell’s Oak

Standing on a farmer’s field near Melksham, in Wiltshire is Cromwell’s Oak. The story goes that Cromwell stayed on the farm in 1643, after a battle with the Royalists nearby, and that he hanged four of them from it!

Believed to be around 700 years old, it is certainly ancient enough to have provided Cromwell with his grisly gallows.

Sadly, the tree has suffered recently from stock gathering too closely underneath it. However, help is on the way in the form of a new fence and mulch, which will be placed around it to help it recover and protect it for the future.

Trees of time will tell you more about what momentous historical events ancient trees have seen.

Elderly trees are as much a part of our heritage as stately homes, cathedrals and works of art. However they do not enjoy the same protection. There are 500,000 listed buildings in the UK, there may be as many ancient trees but as yet we have no way of knowing. Yet they form much of our cultural ancestry, being a favoured subject of artists and writers over many centuries.

They also support life forms that can live nowhere else. See the section on ancient tree ecology for more information about this.

Jon Parsons/WTPL

Ancient oaks can often survive up to 600 years such as the famous Sherwood Oak