Ancient Trees

The terms ‘Ancient’ or ‘Veteran’ tree are used to describe those trees that are bigger, older and more important for biodiversity than any other. Technically an ‘Ancient Tree’ refers to trees in the ancient or third and final stage of their life. A veteran tree is one that is in its second or mature stage. There is a further classification for ‘notable’ trees, which are those that are particularly culturally or aesthetically important, or are the ancient trees of the future.

The UK is particularly rich in terms of its ancient tree population when compared to the rest of the world, and Exmoor is particularly rich in a UK context - which means that Exmoor has an internationally significant population of ancient trees.

Many of the ancient trees on Exmoor are found where there has been long established human involvement with the land, such as in the designed parklands of the large estates, like Pixton or Nettlecombe. However, old hedgerow trees, remnant features of old coppice in woodlands or cultural centres, such as churchyards and village greens, are also important refuges of these historic living monuments.

In order to get a better picture of where our ancient trees are, Exmoor National Park Authority have in recent years undertaken to locate and identify its ancient trees, including the 2006/7 Ancient Tree Hunt, which brought the total of known ancient and notable trees to well over 1700!

The data collected has been done so in line with that of the Ancient Tree Forum, so for recording purposes, to class as an ancient tree species such as oak, beech and ash should have a girth of at least 3.75m at Breast Height (1.5m) whereas species such as hawthorn, birch, rowan, willow and yew need only have a girth of 1.8m. Notable trees, considered to have exceptional value to conservation, culture or the landscape, have also been recorded even though they might not meet the criteria above.

The information from the Exmoor Ancient Tree Hunt is being uploaded to the website of the national Ancient Tree Hunt. Here you are able to use an interactive map to see where ancient trees have been recorded.

For management advice on ancient trees please download Natural England's publication "Veteran Trees: A guide to good management" , and also visit the Ancient Tree Forum website.

If you think that you have found an Ancient, Veteran or notable tree then please contact us. We can then check against our records and add it if it is unrecorded.