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Ancient Trees

 Forestry Commission England is committed to the protection and preservation of ancient trees on the public forest estate - some thought to be more than 1,000-years-old.

We are supporting the Woodland Trust's Ancient Tree Hunt (, which aims to involve thousands of people in finding and mapping all the old trees across the UK and is right at the heart of the Woodland Trust’s ancient tree conservation work. It will create a comprehensive living database of ancient trees and it’s the first step towards cherishing and caring for them.

Veteran trees on the public forest estate

Savernake Forest in Wiltshire, most of which is managed by the Forestry Commission, is home to some of Europe's oldest trees. Find out more about visiting Savernake Forest

The Big Belly Oak is the great grandfather of the historic Savernake trees at about 1,100 years old, taking root at around the time William the Conqueror defeated King Harold in 1066.The imaginatively named King of Limbs is a pollarded oak thought to be about 1,000 years old. Pollarding is an ancient technique for harvesting timber for fencing and firewood by cutting the tree back and allowing new shoots to grow again.

The Royal Forest of Salcey is a remnant of a medieval royal hunting forest. Reminders of the past can still be found, with many miles of ancient woodbanks, Iron Age building remains, and ancient trees - including the rare Salcey "druids" - veteran oaks, some of which are believed to be over 500 years old. For more information about visiting Salcey Forest see

One of the most famous of these ancient trees is the Milking Oak. The tree acquired its name because milkmaids  used to milk the cattle that grazed at Salcey Forest in the cool shade under this broad tree.

The New Forest in Hampshire is home to many old trees that are around 200-300-years-old. Many of these trees are in the forest's ancient pasture woodland where the forest floor under mature trees is grazed by deer, ponies, cattle and pigs. The Knightwood Oak is the most famous of the former hunting forest's trees and has been a visitor attraction since Victorian times and is now the star of its very own podcast! It is another pollarded tree. Pollarding generally helps trees to live longer, and most of the biggest and oldest trees in the New Forest are pollards.

Read more about notable New Forest trees and download the Knightwood Oak podcast to learn more about this famous tree

350 years old pollarded small leaf lime

At Rainbarrow Woods in the Duddon Valley in Cumbria, renowned for its wild flowers, there is a pollarded small leaf lime that is thought to be around 350-years-old. The attractive woodland is designated as an ancient semi-natural woodland Site of Special Scientific interest (SSSI) and is home to the most northerly population of dormice.


Ancient Tree News


Can't see the trees for the wood

Historic trees – some thought to be around 1,000 years old – can stretch out at Savernake Forest in Wiltshire, thanks to a project that puts these veterans centre stage.

Throughout the winter local contractors have been hard at work in Savernake Forest to enhance the unique character and wildlife value of the forest. Forestry Commission, Natural England and DEFRA have jointly funded this restoration work to enhance the biodiversity value of this most important Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

See related news release

Joy over veteran tree discovery

Work at the 200-acre Shining Cliff Wood in Derbyshire to clear over 25 acres of rhododendrons is ongoing as part of a “back to nature” plan, which will see more native broadleaf trees take root. Amongst the trees breaking cover for the first time in decades are gnarled old oaks and sweet chestnuts thought to be at least 300 years old.

The wood is a key wildlife haven and includes rich plant-life around springs seeping through the ground. It also contains the wizened remnants of an old Yew, called the Betty Kenny Tree, thought to have inspired the "Rock a Bye Baby" nursery rhyme.

See related news release

Keepers of Time

The Government’s statement of policy for England’s ancient and native woodland. “Keepers of Time” (Forestry Commission England /Defra, 2005) celebrates the importance of our native and ancient woodland tree species. It sets out a series of strategic objectives for action over the coming years to ensure that these quintessential features of England’s landscapes, irreplaceable living historic monuments, are sustainably managed to provide a wide range of benefits to society.

The focus of this policy is Forestry Commission England's commitment to restoring and re-establishing the native mix of broadleaf tree species - such as oak and ash  - on sites that were planted with conifers during the last century.