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Protecting Cornwall's ancient trees pays off in many ways

By West Briton  |  Posted: February 13, 2014

By Tim Kellett

  • Measuring an ancient beech near Grampound, for the Ancient Tree Hunt Project.

  • Tim Kellett

  • An ancient hollow farmland ash.

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THIS year we will see the results from the Ancient Tree Hunt Project consolidated into a new 'Ancient Tree Inventory' managed by the Woodland Trust. They will be brought under one accessible mapping system alongside ancient woodlands, wildlife trust sites, nature reserves and the Cornwall Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

This will help us value and manage these assets and get the most out of them for the future.

By looking at this inventory we know the greatest concentrations of ancient and veteran trees can be found on big Cornish estates and parklands.

However it is on farmland that the greatest surprises are often found. Maybe it's because the trees are often hidden away, or not believed to have any commercial value. However I am sure that is changing as their value is being more appreciated.

The owner of Swannacott Farm, for example, is happy to promote the fantastic pollard oaks there as they can bring more visitors and potential customers to his farm shop.

The oldest tree in Cornwall is the 900-year-old Darley oak – in the garden of Darley Farm near Upton Cross – the feature of many family stories and local articles.

Nearer home we have recently seen the ash trees at Wheal Basset Farm in my last article and there are some fantastic oaks at Philleigh on the Roseland and Old Kea and Devoran in the fields and old hedgerows, both in the Cornwall AONB.

I recently visited four adjoining farms near Wadebridge in one day, at their invitation, and found a dozen ancient and veteran trees. Trees like the beech in the picture were once in a hedge bank but now stand exposed in a field.

The ash is so old it has completely hollowed and thrown down new aerial roots inside the trunk.

The special biodiversity and cultural value of these trees is being increasingly recognised by government agencies and becoming an important feature in funding farms and development projects.

Under the suggested new direct payments scheme there could be a "greening" requirement to designate an ecological focus area as part of the arable land.

This will provide a small environmental benefit as well as a commercial one.

So management of our special trees makes good sense, whether you want to develop visitor benefits, support funding applications, or protect habitats or local features that are part of your family or community history.

The Cornwall Ancient Tree Forum can help identify their value and provide management advice to protect them for future generations. Contact me for a leaflet or a visit.

I wonder if any West Briton readers can beat the Court Farm oak near Philleigh at 5.22m girth or the 5.10m beech at Grampound or get close to the 6.34m ash at Penans Farm. Every farm has its champion tree – let's hear about yours at kellett4@gmail.com

Over 150 articles from this environment series are available at www.cornwallaonb.org.uk

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