Veteran Trees in the Tarell Valley

A veteran tree in the Tarell Valley, Brecon Beacons, Powys

Clinging to the foothills of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales, the Tarell Valley is home to some of our semi-ancient woodlands, where veteran trees and the wildlife they support thrive.

Coed Carno is one of these woodlands. It’s an upland survivor scattered with veteran birch, thorn, rowan and crab apple trees. You can also discover the wonderful phoenix trees, which have continued to grow even after falling down.

What is a veteran tree?

A veteran tree is very old compared with others of the same species, but there’s no strict definition of what age a tree must be to be considered veteran.

Different species grow at different rates. While a 600-year-old oak would be considered veteran, so would a 300-year-old beech. Yew trees can live for several thousand years and oak and sweet chestnut for a thousand years or more. A rowan (also called mountain ash) is considered veteran at 200 years, whereas an oak of the same age is just getting going.

In the Tarell Valley, some of our veteran trees are at the extreme ranges of their growing conditions. Here, they’re not huge, majestic specimens like those found at Clytha Estate, but small, twisted and weather-beaten.

A life support system

Veteran trees provide an extremely valuable habitat for all sorts of wildlife. They host rare fungi, lichen and deadwood invertebrates, many of which are totally dependent on ancient trees for their survival.

In winter, Coed Carno can appear empty and barren, though many woodland birds can be spotted flitting between the bare branches and flocks of fieldfare and redwing feed in fields throughout the Tarell Valley.

But in spring and summer, Carno truly bursts into life, with migrant birds such as pied flycatchers, wood warblers and chiffchaff darting to and fro as they raise their young.

Bluebells, wood anemone, red campion, lesser celandine and primrose carpet the ground as they take advantage of the dappled sunlight created by gaps in the tree canopy.

Discover our ancient trees

In the Tarell Valley, many of our veteran trees are visible from the old coach road running north from Storey Arms. From a distance they look like any other tree, but up close they’re hollow, gnarled and full of life.

You’re free to walk within the woods along the waymarked paths when forestry operations aren’t under way. Coed Carno is also part of our Tarell Valley walk, available to download.