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Wealden Tree Project

Sussex Wildlife Trust - Wealden Ancient Tree Project

The Wealden Ancient Tree Project (WAT) was set up to record as many as possible of the oldest trees in Wealden District, East Sussex, between July 2007 and December 2008. 723 trees recorded by the WAT officer and Volunteer Recorders were entered onto the ATH website.

The response from landowners was very positive. Most were happy to allow their old trees to be surveyed and keen to sensitively manage the trees and the land around them. Over 1800 Ancient Tree Guides with Management advice were distributed to landowners, land managers and countryside advisors.

Records cover 53 different species of tree, with oak (236), beech (233), sweet chestnut (88), ash (58), hornbeam (43) and yew (43) being the most recorded. Maiden and pollard trees provide the best indication of antiquity and most trees recorded were in these two categories. Of the maiden and pollard trees, the largest recorded girths belong to: a yew of 8.5m in Wilmington churchyard; a beech of 8.4m at Broadstone Warren (Ashdown Forest); an oak of 8.05m in Eridge Park and a sweet chestnut of 7.2m at Herstmonceux Castle.

The location habitat was recorded for most trees. It is often mentioned that ancient trees are not necessarily found in ancient woodland, but for this project by far the most records came from woodland (333), with a high proportion of these being beech (148). Unsurprisingly, many trees were recorded in Parkland and Deer Parks (189), largely oak, beech, sweet chestnut, hornbeam and lime. There were also a number recorded in fields (102) and landscape gardens (98).

Yew trees feature strongly in churchyards, but there were almost as many (usually smaller specimens) recorded in woodland. The only trees recorded in avenues were lime and sweet chestnut. Roadside trees recorded (73) were mainly oak, beech, hornbeam and elm. Most records for large oaks occurred in fields (40), parks (53) and woodland (51), fewer in hedgerows (22) and on roadsides (24) with the rest spread across other habitat types.

Wealden sites with public access that are of particular note for good collections of ancient and veteran trees include: Sheffield Park Gardens and South Park, Herstmonceux Castle and Buxted Park.

If you would like an emailed copy of the WAT report, please contact:

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Sussex Wildlife Trust

Sussex Biodiversity Records office

Wealdon District Council

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