Discovery of Ancient Trees in our local area

Blake Ludwig with ancient grand oak

On Saturday 29 October, I organised an Ancient Tree walk. The goal was to introduce people to one of our ancient oaks and to share what I’ve learned about the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree register.

Gathering at the Donnington Castle car park, 11 of us walked past the castle towards Snellsmore, where we found the twisted oak nestled in a patch of bramble and nettle. At first glance it’s unassuming, and you could be excused for not noticing it. But on closer inspection we could begin to take in how old and grand it actually was. 

Together we measured its girth to be 5.8 meters, which helps clarify it as an ancient oak tree. It has other tell tale signs, such as fallen limbs and dead wood in the canopy, bracket fungi, and lichen growing in its branches. 

The bark of the tree is quite rough, and it’s obviously grown over some parasite around much of its base. 

Our tree has been pollarded sometime in the past, as instead of a singular straight trunk, it has many branches, each looking as large around as a younger veteran oak.

Standing beneath the tree, circling the trunk and looking up we get a feeling of something weighty, strangely comforting and quite old. Spanning a life over 400 years, perhaps 500? This tree has perhaps witnessed the civil war.

I think our group were all quite surprised and excited to learn about this oak. I’m hopeful that some will bring friends here again to visit and share the experience.

As well as admiring and revering such ancient trees we can also map them to help protect them from development.

Ancient Oak people admiring

Woodland Trust Inventory

Recently the Woodland Trust released a report calling for more protection of our ancient trees as we are learning to better appreciate what a key part they play in providing a habitat for other species and helping to maintain our ecosystem.
There is a good article on The Guardian here that explains “Despite their functions as carbon sinks and wildlife havens, there is no protection for ancient or veteran woodland unless it has been found to harbour other rare wildlife, or if it is subject to a tree protection order or is sited in a legally protected wildlife area. An estimated 20% of ancient and veteran trees are in such areas, so most have no legal protection.”

I hope that you will feel inclined to explore the Woodland Trust Inventory and visit trees in your own area, and then to also learn to how record old trees you come across on your rambles. 

Maybe in this way we can better protect these old remaining gems in the woods.

You can read more about the Woodland Trust inventory and read notes about how to record your own trees on their website here.

To the right is a screenshot of our oak on the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Inventory map. It is a Pedunculate Oak or common English Oak (Quercus robur) with Tree id number 53657.

When you click on the white box, it takes you through to photos of the tree and comments made by visitors to it.


Good luck finding and logging ancient or veteran trees in your area.

Please comment below if you find any in West Berkshire and surrounding areas so we can visit them as well.

Blake Ludwig
Newbury Friends of the Earth


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