Veteran trees

Ancient Woodland

Many are found as individual specimens or within ancient woodland. Ancient woodland is defined as any area that’s been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. ‘Ancient woodland has been around for so long it has developed special communities of plants and animals not found elsewhere. It’s an important habitat and in sore need of protection. ‘ Woodland Trust

Although all ancient trees are veteran trees, not all veteran trees are ancient. Veteran trees may not be very old, but they have decay features, such as branch death and hollowing. These features contribute to their biodiversity, cultural and heritage value.

The Woodland Trust

According to The Woodland Trust ‘Our ancient woods are in desperate need of protection. Once vast, they now cover just 2.4% of the UK. Around half of what remains has been felled and replanted with non-native conifers and even more is under threat of destruction or deterioration from development and wider impacts such as air pollution.

Britain has more veteran trees than most countries in Europe, and their conservation is of international interest. ‘ We need to cherish and recognise the importance of veteran and ancient trees and ancient woodland.


There’s more to woodland than trees though. Many fungi are dependent on them, as well as their soils which provide vital nutrients for flora. There’s probably more life below an ancient woodland than above it. Removing trees within these irreplaceable habitats is therefore problematic, not only to wildlife living on the tree itself, but those on or below ground too. And if that was not enough, they lock up greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, that negatively contribute to climate change. So, there’s more to a woodland than the sum of its trees.

Let’s keep the trees in the ground and value their beauty, as well as importance for biodiversity and cultural purposes.

Ian Weller, Assistant Ecologist