> My First Truly Ancient Tree

I’ve had blogger’s-block. No it’s not some nasty kind of constipation… I just couldn’t think of anything to write about. So, instead of just posting about complete twaddle, I’ve waited. Until now that is. I want to introduce you to my first ancient oak!

Yes, that little speck standing under the tree is me. I thought it would help to give you some sense of scale. This beautiful oak tree has become my first officially verified ancient tree in Corfe Mullen.

For some time I’ve been recording old ugly knobbly trees for the Ancient Tree Hunt project (an initiative set up by the Woodland Trust to record all the old trees in Britain). Then over the summer I was lucky enough to be trained as a verifier for the project. It sounds grand but really just means I can go around Dorset verifying other peoples recorded trees; confirming that they are what they say they are.

This was my first ancient Corfe Mullen tree and, as I’m trying to record all the flora/fauna in Corfe Mullen for my Nature Watch project, I was quite amazed when I stumbled into it. Last week I persuaded Emma Brawn from the Dorset Greenwood Tree project (another tree project concentrating on the recording of old trees in Dorset) to come and help me verify the tree.

I actually found the tree in the winter while I was out walking on the outskirts of the village (see above). Even without leaves it was an impressive sight. Boughs as big as normal tree trunks and an enormous spreading canopy. It’s actually growing on the top of a hill and I remember sitting on a fallen branch (you can see it to the left of the tree) and looking out across the countryside willing Spring to arrive!

So lets get down to facts and figures. It’s an oak. It’s a VERY big oak and ANCIENT (I’m not saying how old, but it’s bloody-old). It’s girth (measured at 1.4m above the ground) is 6.46m (21.19ft). It’s an old pollard that may once have been part of Mountain Clump (copse nearby). It’s covered in at least six different fungi (more about that after my fungi specialist has had a look at it next week), loads of lichen and numerous mosses. It’s showing signs of hollowing, dead wood in the crown and holes in the branches. It’s grid reference (in case you ever want to give it a hug) is SY97399757 (right next to a not-much-used footpath).

I’ve named it Adams Oak which is my husbands surname…. oh and mine now!

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24 thoughts on “> My First Truly Ancient Tree

  1. Hi Jane,

    Impressive tree and nice photos! I don’t think I we have a tree like that near our house. I always admire things like that. I know what you mean about struggling to think of a topic to write on.

  2. When I was expecting our third child I picked up an acorn in my parents garden and planted it. Nearly 17 years later it is a lovely shaped tree in our garden BUT the neighbours I think are going to complain about it as it’s getting bigger and so I am going to pollard it soon. I can’t bear to get rid of it as it is special to me, it’s Ed’s tree.

  3. Wondered when you’d post next Jane! 😉
    I’ll check out the sierra yankee grid ref at work later – what a great tree!
    I guess you’d be after finding a really ancient apple tree, yes?
    Then you can call that – the “Adam’s apple”.
    A hur hur hur hur hurrrr!
    Stop it now.
    Ok. 😉

  4. Hi Dragonstar. I have to admit I was in two-minds whether to do a post on trees. Although I love them, they aren’t everyones favourite subject – some may find them a bit… well dull! Glad I did now… as they seem to be more popular than I imagined. I hope others get involved in the Ancient Tree Hunt, it’s great fun. Jane

  5. Hi Tricia. You can’t really age them by girth… but it gives you a bit of a clue to their age. Only real way is to chop them down and count the rings (which I can’t imagine you will be doing!). However, you can tell if they are notable, veteran or ancient. Have a look on the Ancient Tree Hunt website for more info. I warn you… you will be hugging them before you know it! Jane

  6. Lyn. That is such a lovely story. I hope your neighbours don’t kick up a fuss. After they reach about 30 years their growth should slow down (so I’ve heard) – the tree not the neighbours! I think I may plant one for my mum. I’ve got an oak sapling in a pot that I dug up out of the garden…. Jane

  7. Whoops I’ve been logged into the Dorset Wildlife Trust blog… and now I’ve got their logo on my comments and can’t change them. Doh! Anyway, logged in properly now.

  8. Doug. Thanks for the suggestion. I’m now on a crusade to find Adams Apple! (did you know that orchards have declined by 50% over the last 50 years?) 🙂 Jane

  9. Isn’t it strange – the blocked thing? Glad you’re over it now. I think I remember you posting about the tree backalong – glad its been officially recognised. Well done you!

  10. Hi Paula. I know… I just couldn’t think of a thing to write about. Well remembered… yes I did post about it before. Many months ago. Didn’t think anyone would remember! Jane

  11. Hi again Jane 😀

    Ah… what a cracking tree – I love it best without its leaves. What a stunning shape this one has.

    I have a soft spot for trees too – they were a popular subject that I drew as a teenager. I think I have perhaps told you this.

    I grew up in a small village with great trees around it at walking distance. Your tree reminds me of sitting in a field drawing one in particular. Many trees in our area had history too. I always feel humbled standing under an old tree.

    Mm… yes, I’m with you on the not writing a post unless you’ve something to say. My prob has been quite the opposite over this summer. I have heaps sitting that I just haven’t had time to start on. Its a shame when that happens as I like to post current when I can – it has just not been possible. Welcome back 😀

  12. Thanks Shirl. Yes I love trees (silly isn’t it!). I was in the position of having loads of posts that I “could” write on bees and insects (I’ve been fascinated by them all summer) and thought I should really write about something else… but what? I waited and waited, then along came Adams Oak! 😉 Jane

  13. I’ll get mummy to put that grid reference on our walk list and then my clever daddy will look it up so we can go and hug the Adams Oak and check out the not-much-used footpath! Teagan x

  14. Hello Jane,
    I reckon your tree is 600-700 years old. The girth of the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest was carefully measured just before 1800, and again in 2000, and is increasing its girth at approx 1 cm per year. The age by various means is estimated at 1,000. The 158 year oak cut down at the Oak Fair this year was growing at a peak rate of 3.5 cms/year when aged 30, but towards the end of its life had slowed to around 1 cm/year. It looks like 1 cm/year is a reasonable non-destructive way of estimating an old oak’s age. By the way, I can put on a display of my ‘oak slice’ whenever you want, see http://www.eyemead.com/OW-RINGS.htm

  15. Hello John. Yes, it’s obviously very old. I shy away from ageing them as it is really impossible to date accurately unless you chopped it down and counted the rings (and I’m not about to do that!). So many things that you have to take into consideration with tree ageing. Type of soil (it will grow at different rates in poor and good soil), position (exposed/not exposed), whether it’s been pollarded or left as a maiden, weather conditions during it’s life, the effect of other trees growing nearby (trees in the open tend to grow bigger than in a wood)… I could go on and on. However, I think you are probably right.. if I was pushed I’d probably put it in the 600-900 year old category but that’s only a wild guess…Thanks for the offer of the “oak slice”. You might want to let Emma Brawn at the Dorset Greenwood Tree Project know as well (as she does talks etc). Jane

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