Kent’s tallest tree, the “Old Man of Kent”, has been an iconic part of the Forestry Commission’s conifer collection at Bedgebury National Pinetum, near Goudhurst, Kent, and sadly it has now reached the end of its natural life and was felled yesterday.
Following Storm Katie on Easter Monday 2016, staff were saddened to find significant damage to the “Old Man of Kent”, a grand silver fir, Abies grandis. One of the tree’s three top branches was snapped off during the high winds, and closer inspection of the fallen branch revealed that it was diseased. A further independent survey by arboricultural consultants Sylvanarb revealed that the tree had severely decayed and was in poor physiological and structure condition.
Believed to be around 150 years old and standing at 50 metres tall, the tree which was part of the original Bedgebury estate plantings, has become well-known as Kent’s tallest tree and well regarded with great affection by Bedgebury’s many visitors and staff over the years.
Its height, location and condition meant specialist arboricultural contractors Greencut Horticultural Ltd were engaged to remove the “Old Man of Kent”, using an elevated platform and dismantling it sections at a time. It is hoped that some of the good timber can be used to create a lasting piece of art for the Pinetum. Brushwood and other pieces of timber will be made into mulch and woodchip that can be used around the site at Bedgebury.
Whilst it is sad when a majestic old tree comes to the end of its natural life, the important conservation work that is carried out at Bedgebury means that there is hope for the future protection of endangered species with new seedlings being grown in the nursery all the time. Fortunately, a Bedgebury led team of conservation experts travelled to the Pacific Northwest coast of America on a collaborative seed-collecting expedition in 2015, which enabled them to bring back wild collected seed of Abies grandis (the “Old Man of Kent”). Some of these seeds have recently been successfully propagated, and these new seedlings will be used to replace the “Old Man of Kent”.
Dan Luscombe, Bedgebury Pinetum curator, said,
“Even though Abies grandis is not currently endangered in the wild the loss of a special tree like the “Old Man of Kent” is still significant. Who knows, in another 150 years’ time, when our new seedlings reach maturity, this species of tree could be endangered in the wild, and this reinforces the work that we carry out here at Bedgebury ; being important for the international conservation of conifers.”
Bedgebury is cared for by the Forestry Commission for people, wildlife and trees.
Notes to Editor
1. Open all year Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest is home to the National Conifer Collection. The 128-hectare (320-acre) site is recognised as one of the most complete collections of conifer trees and plants on one site anywhere in the world, containing more than 12,000 trees, including rare, endangered and historically important specimens. Staff travel the world to collect seeds from rare and endangered species for propagation, and are supported in this work by the Friends of Bedgebury Pinetum. It is a key partner in Fauna & Flora International’s Global Trees Campaign, and makes a major contribution to the Global Strategy for Plant Conservation co-ordinated by Botanic Gardens Conservation International. It does this by collecting endangered seeds from all over the world to bring back to Bedgebury for propagation.
More than 2000 tree and shrub seedlings are grown at Bedgebury every year, some of which are planted on site. Surplus seedlings and plants are distributed to other botanic gardens and safe sites across the UK and Europe, and it provides seed to the Millennium Seed Bank. Bedgebury works to conserve species identified in the UK Red Data Book as in need of particular conservation effort.
The Pinetum also offers a beautiful setting for peaceful walks and picnics, whether wrapping up on a cold frosty morning, or enjoying a beautiful day of sunshine, and seasonal trails explaining more about the Pinetum can be followed throughout the year.
Bedgebury Forest covers around 800 hectares (2000 acres) of forest and offers facilities for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy activities such as adventure play, walking, cycling, mountain-biking, running, and horse riding; and it has a Go Ape high-ropes adventure trail. Seasonal events are also offered throughout the year.
The Bedgebury Visitor Centre serves both the National Pinetum and Forest. Recently refurbished it now includes a stunning Atrium containing beautiful interpretation relating to Bedgebury’s conservation work, and the Bedgebury Cafe provides a full range of hot and cold refreshments and features new improved catering facilities. There is also a cycle hire shop (including adapted cycles and a bike wash area), a visitor information centre and a classroom/community room, toilets and showers.
Information about Bedgebury National Pinetum & Forest is available from http://www.forestry.gov.uk/bedgebury, www.facebook.com/bedgeburypinetum and www.twitter.com/BedgeburyP by phone to 01580 879820, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org
2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk/england.
3. The Friends of Bedgebury Pinetum is a charity that supports the Forestry Commission in its management of Bedgebury as a world-class centre of conifer research, conservation and education, as a landscape of rare and endangered flora and fauna, and as a site for high quality, healthy recreation. It is funded by membership subscriptions, sponsorship activities and donations.
For more information about the Friends of Bedgebury Pinetum visit www.bedgeburypinetum.org.uk , contact 01580 879842 or e-mail email@example.com
Dan Luscombe, Bedgebury Pinetum curator
firstname.lastname@example.org or 0300 067 4469.