Veteran Tree Surveys
Before the coronavirus pandemic, climate change was on the front page and with it came a solution: plant trees. An article in Science Magazine in 2019 from a group at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology reported their estimate that planting a trillion trees would have a major impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Oxford’s Urban Forest Project envisaged something a little more modest - 2000 new trees to be planted during National Tree Week in 2019. The Oxford City Council in partnership with Treeconomics estimated the size of the Urban Forest in Oxford at 250 000 trees.
Early photographs of Eynsham are striking by their relative absence of trees. The change to the present was due to deliberate planting by the Eynsham Society, which in 1980 oversaw the planting of 1000 trees in the parish, finaced by the Parish Council. These were supplemented by a intrepid band of guerrilla tree planters, descendants of Tom, Dick, and Harry no doubt, whose true identities remain shrouded in secrecy; they stood and delivered trees of at least that number again. We now enjoy the fruits of their labours, for the benefits of trees for biodiversity are well-documented, as are their ecological services, like slowing rain run-off, scrubbing air pollution, and providing cooling.
Veteran Ash tree in the Ridge-and-Furrow Field, Eynsham
The Tree project begins with a survey to identify the veteran trees in the parish. What is a Veteran Tree? It is a tree that has reached full maturity and is showing signs of aging. Different species have different growth rates and lifetimes, so reach veteran status at different ages. They can support a rich variety of wildlife, including lichens, mosses, invertebrates, birds, and even small mammals, so they are especially valuable for biodiversity.
Veteran trees are impressive landmarks around the parish – indeed they are an important and often irreplaceable part of our landscape. Thus we have a duty of care to make sure they survive and thrive. Astonishing as it may be to believe, it is said that the UK is host to many more veteran trees than any other Northern European country.
The Eynsham Morris have taken on the task of walking defined quadrants of the parish to identify such trees, so that we know what we have and what we need to protect. Sadly, just in the past months some veteran trees have fallen to the axe, which serves only to emphasise how important this survey is.
Decapitated Veteran Walnut tree, Station Road, Eynsham, March 2020
"The wrongs done to trees, wrongs of every sort, are done in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, for when the light comes, the heart of the people is always right."
John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (1938) p. 429.