Tree surveys on the Mottisfont estate

One of the Mottisfont estate rangers surveys a yew tree

This summer, a force of tree-loving volunteers is helping to protect ancient tree stock on the Mottisfont estate. Trained with the skills to identify specific age categories (ancient, veteran, and significant) they’ll record each tree’s condition, then plot its location on a GPS device.

These days, in the same way that we carry out maintenance on an old house, we need to health-check our trees to help them live longer. Historically, they survived to great ages because woodlands were managed for their materials: trees were pollarded, for instance, which prevented them getting top-heavy and toppling over.

A mix of techniques is used to determine a tree’s age, from measuring trunk size, to looking for features like fungi and branch cavities. Then remedial action like halo-thinning is carried out - removing fast-growing young trees that are shading out a mature specimen, causing it to shut down.

The data gathered from our surveys will be used to enhance site management, and formulate conservation strategies for individual trees and their dependent habitats.

Veteran and ancient trees are of huge value ecologically, and are wildlife-rich:

" Trees play a really valuable role in our ecosystem. The older and more decayed they get the more wildlife they support; their crevices and rotting wood become safe havens for bats, birds, and insects like the stag beetle. They’re an important link with our past too, with the people and forces that have shaped our landscape over centuries."
- Ryan Scott, Ranger