Do you need a new year’s resolution? Here’s one. Hug an ancient tree.
Whilst we are in the throes of winter and our deciduous trees have been stripped of their leafy canopy, now is a good time to discover the wondrous trunks of our countryside’s oldest trees.
It is easy to think that as a tree becomes older it grows taller and taller. This is not true, as after reaching their peak, trees become shorter and their trunks broader during their natural ageing process which may continue for centuries. Characterised by gradual crown die back and branch loss these ancient trees are often more stable with their frequently hollow, gnarled trunks adding maximum stability against high winds.
By staying in the landscape ancient trees continue the biological, historical and cultural connection, as well as providing very valuable habitats for wildlife. Dead fallen branches replace valuable nutrients in the soil beneath for further growth whilst decaying wood is a precious habitat for specialist fungi and animals.
An ancient tree is classed as a tree that is remarkably old for its species and this can vary dramatically depending on the species. Assuming the conditions for growth are normal then an ancient Hawthorn might have a girth of up to 4 meters while an ancient Oak might have a girth reaching up to 14 meters.
Broadly speaking a minimum of 4 children (3 adults) holding hands, arms outstretched, reaching around a large tree trunk will signify an ancient tree. Why not take a walk to search out and hug some of our precious great giants of the woods?
Helen Howes January 2020
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This article has been written by our lovely friend Helen, a Sustainability Consultant and Forest School Practitioner with over 30 years experience working with learners from preschooler to adult.
Helen is in her element making woodland cocktails and mud pies with both young and old, is an inspirational Forest School Leader and Outdoor Educator, and has received much positive feedback for the quality of the learning she initiates.
She will be sharing more of her favourite outdoor activities in this month-by-month blog titled “From the Forest”.