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The Lost Trees

The Ancient Tree Inventory also records trees when they have been felled, blown down, lost without known reason or simply disappeared from the landscape. Knowing the rate of loss and the reasons can be useful for conservation management and the protection of these special trees.

Since 2005 48 ancient, 239 veteran and 50 notable trees are shown as being “lost”. As this only represents those tree records that have been updated, the actual figure is probably much higher. The reasons for loss are many and although new development has the most contentious impact, storm damage appears the biggest threat.

Although only a few tree surveys have recorded stumps in any detail, we have data on 202 stumps greater than 4.7m girth and can use old maps to identify potential large tree losses on parkland sites and hedgerows. Most of the largest surviving stumps are oak or Sweet chestnut on sites that were cleared for timber during the two World Wars, or later to make way for the planting of conifers. Verifier Andy Gordon is about to embark on a detailed survey of stumps at Croft Castle in Herefordshire for the National Trust and and Judy Dowling and friends came across an ancient tree trunk graveyard in a ravine at Cadzow, near Hamilton, Glasgow.

ATI data currently only provides us with a small sample of lost trees but is highlighting trends of threat and risk. From British historical records we know we have lost 101 big oaks that were recorded before 1920, of which 72 were named trees. The most frequently quoted reason for loss of these trees was from fire. A threat, either accidentally or deliberate, that is still a high risk for our ancient trees today.

The good news is that all may not be lost for the Shotover Oak as epicormic growth on the trunk has been seen and the fence has been set up to protect it to see if the tree can phoenix.