Ancient trees


The Ankerwycke Yew, thought to be the oldest tree we care for © Brian Muelaner

The Ankerwycke Yew, thought to be the oldest tree we care for


We care for some of the UK’s most important trees such as Newton’s Apple, which triggered the great scientist to form his laws of gravity, the Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Tree, under which the first trade union was formed, and the original Irish Yew, which has produced every other Irish Yew in the world.

And these are just a few of the ancient and notable trees that we look after. Hundreds of our volunteers and staff have spent years identifying these trees at places we look after and we’ve recorded over 30,000 so far.

Old trees have no formal recognition (unlike listed buildings), so our survey, along with work being carried out by the Woodland Trust, will raise the profile of these species-rich habitats which are examples of living archaeology.

Discover our ancient and notable trees

Other important trees we look after include:

  • The 2,500-year-old Ankerwycke Yew near Runnymede which is thought to be the oldest in our care. It may have witnessed the events around the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and King Henry VIII's wooing of Anne Boleyn in the 1530s.
  • Calke Abbey has two magnificent contorted and gnarly 1,000-year-old oaks, both true living sculptures, as well as another which is 800 years old.
  • At Hatfield Forest, which is the best-preserved medieval hunting forest in Europe, you can see hundreds of ancient pollards. These are trees which have had their upper branches pruned to prevent cattle and deer from eating the regrowth.
  • Great tree avenues, collections of individual trees in rows and even cathedral-like formations. We look after more avenues than possibly anyone else in the world.

Watch these videos to find out more

Why not head out and discover some true natural history on an ancient tree walk?