Old Maps, Ancient Trees

by Dave Weller

In the UK, 200 year old maps are being used to locate ancient trees. These maps show how the landscape use to look before deforestation, and also help to show where the ancient survivors are located.

Ordnance Survey/Landmark has compiled a digital archive from more than 1000 maps which will be used to build the first interactive map of Britain’s ancient trees.

Because of its legacy of hunting forests established at the time of the Norman Conquest, Britain has more ancient trees than any other country in Europe. Many can be found in these old forests. Scattered groups of trees can also be found in historic parkland, wood pasture and ancient wooded commons. Small groups and individual ancient trees reside in housing estates, urban parks, farmland, village greens, churchyards and within the grounds of old historic buildings.

One of the oldest found so far is a Shropshire Yew. It was found in a churchyard in Norbury, Shropshire, in the West Midland region of England. It could be 2700 years old!

The Woodland Trust, the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity, launched the Ancient Tree Hunt last summer to find, record and preserve their oldest trees. Over the last six months, more than 4000 have been located. Their goal is to locate at least 100,000 ancient trees by the year 2011. They’ll also need the help of the public to find candidates in their home areas.