Search is on for the New Forest’s top tree
by Esta Mion, Communications Manager at the Forestry Commission
Ancient oaks and beeches of the New Forest have been loved by generations of local people, for centuries, artists, poets and musicians have been inspired by trees. They’ve provided us with shelter; we’ve climbed in them and admired them, but is there one tree that is special to you?
Few of us really stop to think about the fundamental role that trees play in almost every part of our day to day lives. So, to mark International Day of Forests on 21 March, we’re asking you to take the time to celebrate trees by nominating your favourite tree here in the New Forest.
One function of this global celebration of forests is to get us all thinking about what we can do to value and protect our forests. Here at the Forestry Commission we’re working closely with the New Forest National Park Authority who is inviting nominations for the shortlist of the New Forest Tree of the Year, which will go to a public vote this summer to decide the winner.
In the New Forest we’re lucky enough to have more ancient and veteran trees than anywhere else in Western Europe, with many dating back hundreds of years.
The search for the New Forest’s top tree is one of a series of events that are running throughout this year to mark the 800th anniversary of the implementation of the Forest Charter. This charter followed on from the Magna Carta and helped establish important rights for people in the New Forest.
You can nominate a tree for the shortlist until 14 May and it could be for any tree that simply has an interesting personal or historical story, or is an impressive or unusual specimen. Perhaps there’s a tree that has a personal significance to you and your family, or is especially old for its species – an ancient or veteran tree.
Of course, one that will probably make the shortlist is the Knightwood Oak, which is the largest oak in the New Forest, at just under 8 metres girth, and surely one of the oldest. It’s still going strong today and is a spectacular example of the ancient art of 'pollarding', the traditional way of harvesting wood without killing the tree.
Personally, I’ve chosen to nominate a beautiful mature beech tree at Bolderwood, it’s always had a special place in my heart and has all-year round beauty. In the spring I love to see its buds sprouting, then as the fresh green leaves appear it gives us shelter in the summer months and in the autumn it produces the most glorious colours, turning yellow through to that classic Beech bronze.
So which tree will win your vote? Will it be the majestic Douglas firs or redwoods that can be found along Rhinefield Ornamental Drive? Or one of the most visited trees in the New Forest, found within ancient wood pasture on the eastern edge of the Forest, where folklore claims that an arrow shot at a stag by Walter Tyrrell glanced off a tree and killed King William II?
There are so many wonderful stories that connect us to trees and we need to celebrate these veteran trees. The rich history of all that’s happened under their branches is fascinating.
Trees are vital ecosystems too and provide a home to more than 80 per cent of our native species of animals, plants and insects. With the New Forest on our doorstep, we know we’re extremely lucky to have such stunning scenery, a vibrant natural environment for animals and birds and a calm retreat from the stresses of daily life.
So, this week, please take a moment to contemplate which tree you’d like to nominate for the New Forest Tree of the Year. Please visit the New Forest National Park’s website and search, Tree Charter. Or go direct to: www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/info/20068/out_and_about/386/tree_charter/2
To learn more about the Forestry Commission visit www.forestry.gov.uk/newforest