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Volunteer Verifying in Scotland

Report from Irene Lobban - Tree Warden and Volunteer Verifier based in Perth and Kinross

From Irene Lobban - Tree Warden and Volunteer Verifier

While Britain's most important buildings are awarded blue plaques and television programmes are made to help preserve them, its historic trees are frequently left to wither and die, their histories and legends forgotten.

This is changing - thanks to funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The Woodland Trust in partnership with The Tree Register of the British Isles and The Ancient Tree Forum, are in the process of building a brand new website and recording system.

The Ancient Tree Hunt
The main purpose is to encourage greater protection of ancient trees by involving thousands of people across the UK in the creation of a living map of ancient trees.

Through the project the aim is to work in partnership with other organisations to encourage people to recognise and then identify ancient trees in their locality then record some key information about each tree.

The data can be entered online, queried and viewed and the partnership sees the project as an important way of reconnecting people with nature, and encouraging them to help protect Ancient Trees.

The Tree Register of the British Isles collates and updates a register of notable trees throughout Britain and Ireland. The register is a unique database of more than 125000 trees some of which are ancient trees and of these some are champion trees. The Tree Register is a partner in this project to map the ancient trees in the UK.

For more details about the Tree Register visit their website

The Ancient Tree Forum was founded in 1993 by a group of people who had come together to discuss the management of ancient trees. It was subsequently one of the key partners in English Nature’s Veteran Trees Initiative. Members of the ATF contributed to the handbook- Veteran Trees a Guide to Good Management.

To find out more visit the Ancient Tree Forum

Where we come in
I had been interested in this for some time and knew that this project was hoping to recruit Volunteer Verifiers, in fact I had already registered my interest in it with the Woodland Trust, and when I saw in the December Tree Life that there was to be a Volunteer Verifier Event, I immediately contacted Alison Hughes from Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust to put my name down.

The result was, that on 20th January 2007, Barbara Prettyman and I attended the Ancient Tree Hunt Volunteer Verifier Event at Dalkeith Country Park.

After a very wet and windy journey to Dalkeith we were welcomed to the event in the Stables Bistro within the park by Nikki Williams, the Ancient Tree Hunt (ATH) Project Manager, who explained the concept of the ATH and the funding that had become available for the project. This will be funded largely by the Heritage Lottery Fund over the next 5 years.

Nikki explained the role we would play as verifiers and introduced the rest of the ATH team and representatives

Kath Owen, who is the Senior Verifier and will lead and assist the Volunteers by way of conference telephone calls and other communications, Andrew Fairbairn - Development Manager - WT Scotland and David Alderman - Expert Verifier – what David doesn’t know about trees isn’t worth mentioning!

We also met Jon Parsons, the E-Communications Manager along with members of the team responsible for the new website. Jon explained the new website and how, as verifiers, we would have access to various parts of the site to carry out the verifier role. He demonstrated the ‘interactive maps’ on the site and how recorded trees could be verifier and additional information appended.

We spent the morning exploring this brand new web site, discovering the tools that will be essential to the verifiers’ trade and preparing for the flood of records that will soon be coming in from the public.

We had the opportunity to ‘play’ with the website – it had not yet gone live so no harm was done!!

Donald Rodger also spoke about his interest in, and love of, these doyennes of our forests and parks. Donald is co-author of the recently published ‘Heritage Trees of Scotland’ which Andrew Fairbairn was doing a great job of promoting! Donald, with the help of some slides, spoke of how important it is that these trees are recorded and gave examples of trees which he had photographed but which for various reasons were no longer there. An example of this is the Newbattle Abbey Sycamore – mentioned in the book but brought down by a freak gust of wind in 2006.

After this most interesting talk, we donned jackets and set off to look at the Dalkeith Oak Wood to learn at first hand the tricks of the verifiers trade – what to look for and how to do it safely. The Oak Wood is worth visiting just to look at the trees!

We returned to the training room where Nikki explained how travelling expenses would be paid to verifiers and asked us to complete an evaluation form. We were also asked if we wished to pursue our interest in becoming verifiers. Those of us who have expressed an interest are to be notified with a few weeks whether we will be accepted.

Barbara and I have since heard that we are both now official Verifiers.


Anyone can be a recorder - it is a simple procedure to do this on line and I would urge all Tree Wardens with internet access to do this. The basic information required is:

  • The location – with map reference
  • The variety of tree
  • The circumference of the tree
  • There is also a facility to record other aspects of the tree: Standing or fallen; dead or alive as well as any history or tradition associated with the tree
  • Photos of the tree can also be uploaded to the website

Have a look at the website if you can – you will be able to register as a recorder.

I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree A tree whose lovely mouth is pressed, against the sweet earth’s flowing breast A tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray A tree that may in summer wear, a nest of robins in her hair Upon whose bosom snow has lain, who intimately lives with rain Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree - Joyce Kilmer. 1886–1918

'In towering splendour once I stood A regal monarch of the wood, My branches once reached to the sky See me now but do not cry. The Creator's work has yet to cease I've become a shelter for bird and beast, And when at last I fall to the Earth The life I leave will inspire new birth; A seedling springs forth from the ground Nature's cycle goes round and round.' Spirit Tree - S. Edward Palmer