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Help search for the Ents of the Yorkshire Dales

Grassington, 29 June, 2012.

Old trees in the Yorkshire Dales National Park have been put under the spotlight in a new conservation survey.

More than 800 have now been recorded in a bid to identify the condition and location of these valuable trees in our landscape.

Dales Volunteers and local groups have spent more than two years roaming the 680sq miles (1,088sq kms) of the National Park listing the old trees in one of three categories – ancient, veteran or notable. The information they have gathered has been added to existing records to give a clearer picture of their numbers and distribution.

And landowners and visitors are now being asked to join in the survey to ensure that none is missed out.

Phill (correct) Hibbs, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s Trees and Woodland Officer, said: “So far, 833 have been logged and more are being identified or recorded on a regular basis. The majority (51 per cent) are Oak trees, with Ash, Alder and Beech making up around 15 per cent each.

“Some of them are very old indeed – possibly over 800 years – and look just like the Ents in Lord of the Rings – knarled and marked by time and the environment.

“They all play a vital role in the ecology of the National Park and in helping to maintain the balance of nature by providing shelter and food for all sorts of native wildlife as well as a refuge for rare niche fungi and plants.”

The information gathered by the Dales Volunteers and by other organisations like the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeological Group has been uploaded to a national database set up under the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt project, which aims to record all the UK’s ancient, veteran and notable trees. The project is a partnership between the Woodland Trust, the Ancient Tree Forum and the Tree Register of the British Isles.

Andrew Colley, the YDNPA’s Member Champion for the Natural Environment, said: “The UK has an estimated 80 per cent of all northern Europe’s ancient trees. However, many of them are under threat from illegal felling, inappropriate management and development. For these reasons it’s important that we work alongside the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt to ensure the protection of these wonderful habitats and markers in time.

“Without the help of the Dales Volunteers and local organisation this would be an almost impossible task so we would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to them – and appeal to landowners and visitors to help as well.

“If a tree has that ‘wow’ factor then it’s probably special – it could have local historical or cultural significance or be notable because it is rare or magnificent in stature.

“So when you are out and about within the National Park and you spot what you consider to be an interesting old tree that has some unusual features, please take a note of its location, or perhaps a photo and get in touch with Phill, so that we can get it surveyed and added on to the data set.”

An ancient tree is one of interest biologically, aesthetically or culturally because of its great age. It will be very old relative to others of the same species.

A veteran tree is usually in the mature stage of its life and has important wildlife and habitat features including hollowing or associated decay, fungi, wounds and deadwood within the canopy.

A notable tree is of local importance or may be of personal significance to an individual. These trees may be rare species, exceptional specimens or those considered to be potential next generation veteran trees.

An ancient or veteran tree usually has a canopy that is small, with a trunk that is usually wide and hollow. This is not necessarily an indication that a tree is dying – it may live on for decades and often centuries. Ancient trees are full of holes and dead and rotting wood. As time goes by they provide the perfect habitat for thousands species of plants, animals and fungi including many rare and threatened species.

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