Petworth's Ancient and Veteran Trees

An image of the oak thought to have been a sapling in 1066

Petworth Park is home to an assortment of ancient and veteran trees that range from 250 to 950 years old. Explore the Deer Park and find these proud monuments, some of which are gnarled and have twisted into fascinating shapes while other bear the mark of lightning strikes. Learn about the 'Beelzebub' tree, find out where an English Oak has survived since the 1066 Norman invasion and another that marks the remains of a Tudor building.

There are various ancient and veteran trees in Petworth Park, some stretching back as far as the Norman invasion.

Explore the Deer Park on your visit and find these fascinating specimens that hold so much history, support a whole host of wildlife and provide plenty of colour and fascinating shapes against the panoramic skyline of the 700 acre Deer Park.

Specimens

On your travels you'll find three ancient English Oak trees, one of which was a sapling during the 1066 Norman Invasion and is likely older than any building constructed at Petworth.

You can also find mature Common Beech, Aspen and Swamp Cypress as well as an old hollow Common Lime, gnarled Sweet Chestnuts that show the remains of lightning strikes, Common Walnut trees and a London plane tree.

History

An image of the plaque denoting the Beelzebub tree in the Deer Park

Look out for a plaque beside one of the English Oaks declaring the tree the 'Beelzebub' Oak. The oak is shown on maps as far back as 1779 when it marked the parish boundary. This oak is approximately 250 years old, so likely a replacement from the original but it has been suggested the name came from the superstition that beyond the parish boundary the land was spiritually suspect.

Discover a 500 year old sweet chestnut, a young tree in Tudor Britain that pinpoints the remains of a Tudor building.

Other sweet chestnuts aged between 300 to 600 years show the remains of lightning strikes in their gnarled and twisted forms.

A tree that can be left to continue as a hollow shell

Also be on the look out for a hollow Common Lime that is roughly 500 to 600 years old and can continue as a hollow shell for several more hundred years.

You can also a one of the few common walnuts at Petworth Park that marks the courtyard boundary where Snow Hill Farm once stood.

One of the casualties of the 1987 Great Storm

In more recent years you can see the clumps of trees that were planted between 1968 and 1972 to hide the planned Petworth northern bypass that never came to fruition. You can also see a 285 year old fallen sweet chestnut, a casualty of the 1987 Great Storm.

Autumn colour

The twisted forms of these ancient trees make for an excellent sight at any time of year but the Deer Park comes to life in autumn.

By the lakes of Petworth Park be sure to find the Alders, a common native tree on river banks which has an orange heart wood when cut.

The leaves of the many mature Red Oaks of Petworth Park turn a bold yellowish brown in autumn that pave your way around the Deer Park.

Perhaps even better than the Red Oaks is the old Scarlet Oak. Though it lost a major limb in the high winds of 2015, the tree has glossy green deeply lobed leaves that turn a brilliant scarlet-red in autumn.

Wildlife

These ancient trees do a lot to support the wildlife of Petworth. 

As you walk the Deer Park you'll spot standing deadwood, fallen wood that is left to support a wide variety of fungi, insects, birds and bats.

The holed trunks that you come across make excellent nests for jackdaw, spotted flycatcher, stock dove and starlings.

The 940 year old English Oak has hollies growing from the decomposing wood in its cavities. These aren't detrimental to the tree as long as they are not allowed to become too large.