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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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Veteran Tree Group

Mark Hanson

The aim of the group would be to produce a register of the veteran trees of Essex – as usual we all knew what a veteran tree was when looking at one, but a precise definition of the term ‘Veteran tree’ proved elusive. Perhaps the best interpretation is that given by Helen Read in her book ‘Veteran Trees – a guide to good management’ (English Nature – 2000)
  1. Trees of interest biologically, aesthetically or culturally because of their age.
  2. Trees in the ancient stage of their life.
  3. Trees that are old relative to others of the same species.
Initially over a period of years it was hoped to put together a register of such trees and from this working register, a book about the veteran trees of Essex would hopefully be published at a later date by the Field Club. The book to include chapters on the following subjects –
  1. Lost veteran trees of Essex, e.g. the Hempstead Oak, the Fairmead Oak, the Doodle Oak, the Smugglers Elms, Paglesham or the Giant Cricket Bat Willow from Boreham
  2. A list of trees selected from the register currently alive in Essex.
  3. A look at Veteran tree sites in Essex, identifying the most important i.e. Epping Forest, Danbury Park, Hylands Park etc.
  4. A chapter on the invertebrates, mosses, lichens and fungi associated with ancient trees.
Much discussion ensued about what data was to be collected and in what form it was to be stored. How it could be made compatible and comparable with other record schemes, for example English Nature, Essex County Council and Tree Register of the British Isles (Trobi). Jeremy Dagley agreed to contact a number of individuals and Terri Tarpey gave much useful thought on the storage of the data gathered.

It was proposed initially that a much simplified version of the original English Nature form be sent out to individuals interested in recording (details to be made available shortly).

What species to record was discussed and it was proposed to record as much as possible, including non-native trees such as the Wellingtonia for the register then select, for example, those specimens that were to be included in the book. The register would include basic information such as species, girth (in imperial and metric), form (standard, pollard etc), six-figure grid reference, notes on location, history, condition etc. At a later date the most notable of these trees (for example ‘champion’ trees in the county) could be singled out for more detailed recording with in particular satellite co-ordinates being included – this would necessitate the acquisition of a hand-held GPS instrument.

One discrepancy I have already noted in records is that English Nature state that girth should be measured at 1.3m above ground level. Trobi recommend girth is taken at 1.5m. so it looks as if two girth measurements will need to be taken. Trobi also include details of 4 tree form categories to be used when recording.

Category A

Trees growing with a clearly defined single clean stem measured at 1.5m.

Category B

Trees growing with a clearly defined single stem, which have:
  1. natural features that increase the girth at 1.5m, or
  2. to be measured at a height other than 1.5m.
Category C

Trees growing without a clearly defined single stem at ground level, such as multiple stems or coppice.

Category D

Trees that are relics made up of separate parts, un-measurable and/or comparable with another tree.

Trobi recording also includes details of height (in meters), diameters of the trunk (in centimetres) and the diameters of any secondary trunks.

At all times permission must be sought from the owner if the tree you want to record is on private land.

I thought it would be useful to list some sites, groups and individual trees that would repay further investigation. Complex Sites

Epping Forest – Sweet Chestnut Castanea sativa at Bush wood with girths of 13 – 20ft, Pulpit Oak at Lords Bushes; Oaks opposite Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge; Field Maple Acer campestre and Hawthorn Crataegus sp. near Connaught Water, Large Oaks near Fairmead Pond also near here the Large Beech Fagus sylvatica pictured in Epping Forest - through the eye of the naturalist, volume 11 of the new series Essex Naturalist. Other large Beeches are found at High Beach, Loughton Camp and Monk Wood. The large Elm Pollard Ulmus sp. at Woodredon is also worth recording.

Danbury Country Park and the adjacent Youth Camp have a number of large trees, Oak (girth 23ft) Beech (18ft girth) and a Cedar (Cedrus sp.) girth 17ft 4ins.

Other complex site include Thorndon Park, Hatfield Forest, Skreens Park (Roxwell), Writtle Forest, Marks Hill Estate (one large pollard Oak), Warlies Park, Gernon Bushes, Bedfords Park, Dagnam Park, Weald Park, Loshes Meadow, Norsey Wood, Furze Hills (Mistley), Rivenhall Park, Maldon Hall, Mundon Hall, Quendon Hall, Fingringhoe Church Green and Lawford Hall.

Groups of Trees

Oaks at Galleydene, Galleywood; Walnuts at Boreham (TL 727098); Oaks at Apple Way (off Beehive Lane, Chelmsford) and Elms (Ulmus sp.) at Messing Airfield (TL 905190).

Single Trees

Oak at Boreham (TL 753121); Oak by Little Easton Church (TL 604236); Rettendon, near Gorse Wood an Oak Pollard girth 26ft. Boreham (TL 759110) Small-leaved Lime (Tilia cordata) girth 13ft 10ins, Turkey Oak (Quercus cerris) at Baddow Hall Park, Great Baddow (possibly other tree species?)

The road between Boreham and Terling also has a fine tree-scape with lots of good trees including some large, still living Elm trees one of which is very tall and evoke some memories of the pre-elm disease era, there are some very large dead Elm pollard trunks just outside Terling Village. There are some noteworthy Oaks here as well at Berwick Place, opposite Terling Hall Farm (three nice pollards) and two very large pollards in a field at Flacks Green (TL 767143). Just beyond Terling on the road to Witham at Fardings Farm (TL 784145) are two Oak pollards (of three trees) in a field right next door to the farm – one of these is absolutely immense.

To conclude, a good base from which to start looking for veteran trees is J.C. Shenstone – The Oak Tree in Essex (1894) Essex Naturalist VIII pages 89 – 117.