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A celebration of trees in the Lake District

Child climbing tree towards camera with children standing around base of trunk in background
Trees are great for climbing, but some old-timers may need a bit of TLC | © National Trust Images/John Millar

There are lots of reasons to love and care for trees – whether you like climbing them, picnicking next to them or enjoy exploring forests. Here in the Lake District, our rangers look after trees every day – ancient trees, veteran trees, trees on nature trails for families to enjoy, even Beatrix Potter's bramley apple tree at Hill Top. We've gathered a collection of our favourites – find out more about them and where you can spot them.

Ancient trees in the Lakes

We care for a whopping 5,835 ancient trees in the Lake District – that’s more than any other single owner in Europe – and it’s a big responsibility.

An ancient tree is one that is remarkably old for its species, which varies from species to species. And they are often solitary. Yews live the longest, some for as many as 4,000 years.

The Borrowdale yews

We know that one of the Borrowdale yews is at least 1,500 years old and William Wordsworth was moved to write a poem about them. A beech or ash tree can be old at 600 years, particularly if they were historically pollarded. Whereas a birch tree is considered ancient if it gets to 150 years old and, for a lime, it would be 350 years old.

'People talk about cathedrals of the countryside and that’s exactly what they are. Just think what an 800-year-old oak has seen in its lifetime and how many woodland rangers will take their turn in looking after it. If I plant an oak and then spend my entire working life looking after it, it will still be a baby when I retire.'

- John Pring, Countryside Ranger and Farm Manager in the Lake District

An ancient gnarled tree on a moss-covered rocky hillside with a path running upwards on its left.
Veteran alder tree in Glenamara Park, Patterdale, in the Lake District | © National Trust Images/John Malley

Veteran trees in the Lakes

We love trees that tell a story. Those that have stood for hundreds of years, limbs outstretched and leaves repeating an annual cycle of growing and falling. In the National Trust we call these ‘Veteran Trees’.

These are on the way to becoming the next generation of ancient trees, and may also be important both culturally and aesthetically. They're often associated with landscapes like Glencoyne Park near Ullswater, which has wood pastures, with over 250 veterans within its 200 hectares.

Veteran trees are also precious because as the tree grows it forms niches which wildlife depends on. These special trees can be home to rare wildlife. A 400-year-old oak tree can support more insects, fungi and lichens then five 100-year-old oak trees.

Windermere oak

One notable veteran oak tree stands at the lakeshore of Fell Foot, on the south-east shore of Windermere. The tree has been there for 200-250 years and is an example of a great indicator of land management, planted and pollarded, to help stabilise the bank. It would have been a feature tree surrounded by a 19th-century beech wood. A reminder that Fell Foot was once the parkland to a villa style property which, as it rose in status included a boathouse complex built next to the oak.

'The parkland at Fell Foot is also home to other mature trees and the current planting scheme allows the continuation of this veteran tree habitat for many hundreds of years to come.'

- Gemma Wren, Countryside Manager for the National Trust in South East Cumbria and Morecambe Bay

Close up of the swirls on an ancient tree trunk
One of the Lake District's Venerable Borrowdale Yews | © National Trust Images/Simon Fraser

Special trees we look after

Beatrix Potter's bramley apple tree

Beatrix Potter planted and cared for her own apple tree at Hill Top. It’s now thought to be about 100 years old. We've looked after it since it was left in our care, and even created a clone in case something happens to the original.

The Dalston Oak

One of the Lake District's oldest trees at 300-350 years old, the ancient Dalston Oak at Acorn Bank gives us a glimpse into the past. It’s important to the landscape, wildlife and visitors to the area. It is part of the ancient woodland that was once here and is named after John Dalston III who made a lot of changes to the old house and the parkland.

Sizergh’s Douglas fir

In Dog Kennel Wood on the Sizergh estate is a Douglas fir – not one of our ancient trees but a veteran tree none-the-less. At 60 metres tall, and with an impressive 232cm girth, it towers over every other tree, one with a real ‘wow’ factor.

Knotted larch trees

Another veteran tree to head for if you’re walking at Arnside Knott is the knotted larch trees. Now dead, the two pairs of larches form an ‘h’ shape. The story goes that the two saplings were tied together by a sailor and his bride on their honeymoon in around 1862.

The Grand Fir of Skelghyl

Planted in around 1860 as part of an arboretum at the Wansfell Holme country estate just outside Ambleside, this grand fir is the tallest tree in the Lake District and the tallest of its kind in the UK measuring over 58 metres.

A group of people standing to the right of the base of a massive tree looking very small
Surveying an ancient tree | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

'Get to know them – each tree is more than a part of the landscape, it is a living, growing being that responds to its environment and is home to countless other living creatures, big and small.'

- John Pring, Countryside Ranger and Farm Manager in the Lake District

Top trails for tree spotting

  • Ambleside Champion tree trail – Search for the tallest tree in Cumbria as you follow this circular walk through the woods.
  • High Close tree trail – Follow this walking trail around the arboretum to discover some of the exotic conifer species we look after.
  • The Aira Force tree trail – Take your time to explore the woodland glades, following the trail around Aira Force and enjoying our fascinating collection of trees as you go. Paper trail available from the – Welcome Building, £1.
Two Herdwick sheep sitting in the grass with Wastwater and the surrounding mountains in the background on a spring day

Discover more in the Lake District

Home of Beatrix Potter, dramatic landscapes and fascinating history.

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