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Great Trees of Cornwall

The Great Trees of Cornwall was a three-year Heritage Lottery Fund project hosted by the National Trust and completed in June 2011. The Trust worked with partners from the Woodland Trust, Cornwall Council, Natural England, English Heritage, Forestry Commission, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, Heligan Garden, Trebah Garden, Duchy of Cornwall, local businesses and enthusiastic volunteers under the banner of the Cornwall Ancient Tree Forum (CATF). The main aims of the project were to provide:

• a county-wide survey of ancient, veteran and notable trees
• training, community events and activities for volunteer tree wardens, communities, schools and special interest groups across Cornwall
• a curriculum-based educational resource pack on ancient trees and guided activities with local schools
• advice and information to landowners and local groups on ancient trees

The project aimed to increase public awareness of ancient and significant trees in Cornwall, collect records and understand the heritage value of these trees, invigorate CATF and regional Tree Warden Network, engage with landowners and tree managers to encourage good management, and to educate young people on the value of great trees.

I was employed in June 2008 as the project officer, working three days a week, and quickly realised that this project would not be possible without a great deal of active community and volunteer involvement. The project was launched on the Lanhydrock estate and, after an inspiring talk from Ted Green, the guru of ancient trees, to 40 CATF members, the press were invited to record a family measuring a tree in the pouring rain. Despite the weather, we had good coverage from the local television and newspapers, which sparked public interest in the project that continued over the next three years.

Volunteer training
Training days were run for individuals and special interest groups, such as how to measure the girth of a tree by hugging, and by the end of the project, over 200 people had learned how to measure and record their special trees. Local recording days on different estates gave opportunities for them to practice their skills and discover some special trees, and for me to give advice to landowners. We also ran specialist workshops with the Environmental Records Centre for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly on invertebrates, fungi, bats, lichens and tree identification.

Public engagement
Banners were produced and stands held at many events to encourage people to become involved. As part of our Big Tree celebration day at Trelissick Gardens, budding poets and photographers were engaged in workshops and competitions – we had over 80 people at an evening poetry reading and the competition resulted in the publication of a small book of poems and photographs – available from Poetry Cornwall for £4.00.
A group of volunteer student photographers helped to develop an exhibition at Lanhydrock gatehouse and we ran a photography competition based on the topic of Great Trees. The winner was Ian French with the ‘Twisted Beech at Tehidy Country Park’. The pictures were exhibited in the café at Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro and generated much interest.

Learning resources
A learning resource pack for Key Stage 2 was produced with Will Coleman of Caliban cic (community interest company). This CD provides ideas, lesson plans and resources based around seven iconic Great Trees of Cornwall, each named in Cornish. Each tree is the focus for one area of the curriculum making it is possible to study the entire curriculum through trees! The learning CD was launched at our Great Cornish Tree Treat at Woodland Valley Farm where children, families and teachers were treated to a taste of the activities on the CD. The Wildlife Trust also ran school workshops linked to the project.

1000 new records
With volunteer help from individuals and parish tree wardens and input from National Trust properties, over 1000 tree records have now been collected and added to the Ancient Tree Hunt database where they can be viewed by the public. Many landowners gave permission for recording events on their land and many individual trees have been found. It is still possible to record your special trees through this website and also to add any ‘lost trees’ – famous trees that have been felled or died – such as this tree reputed to be a preaching place for John Wesley.

Loveday Jenkin
Project Officer

Ancient tree in Cornwall. Photo ATH/Pauline Helman.