17 JUNE 2013
Each year the ancient tree forum, a charity seeking to secure the long-term future of ancient trees, organises a number of meetings for people with an interest in old trees and historic landscapes. These gatherings are usually held at venues usually closed to the public, that are of special interest in terms of their biodiversity and heritage. The summer meeting is the main annual event, running for two days and consisting of lectures, presentations and field visits.
This year the event was held at two different sites: Knepp Castle Estate in West Sussex and Ashtead Common in Surrey. During the morning of the first day (at Knepp Castle), the delegates were provided with presentations given by eminent professionals on subjects including wood decay fungi, managing oak processionary moth, beetles living in ancient trees and ancient woodland history. The afternoon was spent exploring part of the vast estate, learning about and experiencing various aspects of the re-wilding project that the estate managers have been implementing. The project has allowed the natural regeneration of trees and plants, creating an environment similar to that in which our oldest and most treasured ancient trees may have started life.
The second day was hosted by the City of London Corporation at Ashtead Common, Surrey. The morning session involved a guided tour of the western side of the common, which is largely dense woodland, a high proportion of which consists of old, lapsed oak pollards. The route incorporated many of the trees that my team had worked on over the winter and also some of the younger trees that have been ‘veteranised’ as part of a research project being undertaken by Vikki Bengtsson. The delegates seemed impressed and were interested in the veteran tree management that we had carried out. This included ‘high-haloing’ (reducing the height of trees adjacent to the veterans to lessen shading) and ‘retrenchment pruning’ (a specialist crown reduction technique applied to ancient/veteran trees). The afternoon session was spent indoors, where presentations were delivered by a number of tree experts on subjects including managing oak pollards at Epping Forest, identifying water poplars (native black poplar), research into the effects of reducing veteran beech trees, ash dieback and native lime trees.
The event was very well attended, resulting in both days being fully booked. The high calibre of speakers on both days, combined with two exceptional locations, contributed to the whole event being a huge success.
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