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Tree of the month – Lord Burghley’s Field Maple

It has survived through the landscape changes by Capability Brown and further development of the park. Now this field maple at Burghley House is getting lots of extra care and attention.

The field maple (Acer campestre) is our only native maple and lives up to many of its exotic cousins with a display of colour that brightens up our hedgerows and woodlands each autumn.

It is a long lived tree and with specimens surviving from before 1750, this often results in a Field maple being the only surviving ancient tree in an ancient woodland. Almost 2,000 are recorded on the ATI, of which 75% are considered veteran or ancient.

Occasionally, a field maple will be found standing alone as a parkland tree, the remnant of a once ancient hedgerow, wood-bank, or other boundary. One such tree, in the deer park at Burghley House, Cambridgeshire, on the Lincolnshire border near Stamford, has been given some extra special care and attention.

This ancient tree has been propped to support its weight from pulling apart a completely hollow trunk and protected from deer, which could knock it over, by an iron fence.

Composted wood mulch has been placed beneath its canopy to recreate a woodland environment, increasing the availability of mycorrhizal fungi that help tree roots uptake nutrients from the soil needed to maintain a healthy tree.

Throughout the Capability Brown landscape years and further development of the park, this tree has been retained, highlighting its local and landscape importance. Its modest girth today is a remnant of a once bigger tree and, perhaps, never has so much love and care been given to one of our minor species.

Without the support of the Burghley House Preservation Trust and Head Forester, Peter Glassey, surely this tree would have long gone? Yet, amongst the many big parkland sweet chestnut and oak at Burghley, this field maple was the star of the show during a recent Woodland Trust volunteer get together.

Much of Burghley Park is open to the public free of charge where you can walk amongst many trees planted in the C17th.

You can see the Burghley field maple on the Ancient Tree Inventory, No.153720.

Field maple at Burghley House