Plant the ancient trees of the future

Many of the UK’s oldest trees can be found growing in hedgerows – or where hedges once used to be – which is why managing and maintaining them is a key aim of the Hedge Tree Campaign, spearheaded by the Tree Council.

The goal of the campaign is to halt the decline of hedge trees and increase their number, both by planting new ones - during National Tree Week, for instance  -  and by saving existing ones. This supports the Biodiversity Action Plan for ancient and species-rich hedgerows.

Key to the campaign’s success are the 7,500 volunteers who form The Tree Council’s Tree Warden Scheme. Many are working with local farmers and landowners to increase the number of hedge trees. For example, they attach brightly coloured tags to saplings so that hedge-cutters can avoid them – giving them the chance to grow into mature and eventually ancient trees. There are also opportunities to create new pollards which could become impressive old trees in the future.

Some Tree Wardens are contributing their local knowledge to a project to record all the ancient trees in the UK, organised by Tree Council members the Woodland Trust and the Ancient Tree Forum.  This ancient tree hunt reinforces a second major Tree Council campaign — to gain special protected status for heritage trees and generally fight the corner for ‘green monuments’.

Also reinforcing the Green Monument Campaign is a new book, Heritage Trees of Scotland, published by Forestry Commission Scotland (another member) in association with The Tree Council. This is a companion to The Heritage Trees of Britain and Northern Ireland. Both are available from the Tree Council (see below).

The Tree Council’s National Tree Week (22 November to 3 December) is the ideal time to plant the green monuments of the future – whether in hedges or elsewhere. 

“We want people to seize the occasion to plant more trees  - of the right kind and in the right places - in ‘their’ local patch, whether that’s a garden, park, urban street, school, workplace or somewhere in the countryside,” said Tree Council director-general Pauline Buchanan Black. “But National Tree Week is also a time to treasure those trees that we already have.

“Our member organisations, Tree Wardens and others have planned lots of exciting events — such as planting new trees to connect fragmented ancient woodlands, as well as a whole range of walks, talks, tree dressing and woodcrafts.”

Environmental charity the Tree Council, a partnership of organisations working together for trees, began National Tree Week in 1975 and it is now the UK’s largest annual celebration of trees and woods.  Details of events are regularly updated on the website, , and are also available on the infoline, 020 7940 8180 (office hours).

• Heritage Trees of Scotland is on offer to readers at the special price (including UK p&p) of £16.99 (RRP £19.99) by sending a cheque to The Tree Council (CJS), 71 Newcomen Street, London

SE1 1YT (tel: 020 7407 9992, email:

First published in CJS Focus on Trees & Hedges Coast in association with The Tree Council and Permaculture Association on 20 November 2006