Oct 03 2019

A Day Amongst Giants

Coffee and cheese scones have become the traditional start to the day for a small group of tree recorders in south east Scotland. In early September we met at a cafe near Pathhead, a village on the main road south from Edinburgh to plan our recording day. We have been working over the last couple of years to record ancient trees across this area and the target site on this occasion was a nearby small estate.


We knew from existing records on the Ancient Tree Inventory (ATI) and also from records that our chief verifier, Judy, had obtained from other recorders, that there were interesting trees on the estate. We wanted to re-measure the girth of the existing trees recorded in 2012 and also to record new trees. On entering the estate, it was obvious we were in for an exciting and long day as a landscape of wood pasture revealed itself.


Tree recorders under an old Sweet Chestnut

The first tree we recorded was a Corsican Pine at just under 6 metres girth. An impressive tree especially as it was multi-stemmed. Confusion then set in as we looked for 2 big old beeches that were recorded on the ATI but the only ones we could find were smaller in size. It eventually dawned on us that these old trees had been lost when we noticed areas of disturbed ground. The good news is that the estate has been planting new replacement trees over the last few years to augment the landscape.

The most impressive tree, although not the largest, was down by the river – a magnificent Sweet Chestnut measuring over 8.5 metres in girth. This tree must be many hundreds of years old but is still in excellent condition with a healthy crown.  The most unusual tree was a Lucombe Oak which is a cross between a Cork Oak and a Turkey Oak and is mostly evergreen. This was a big tree at over 5 metre girth and likely to be one of the largest in Scotland. It was pleasing to see good sized young trees of this species planted close by to ensure a succession.


The Horse Chestnut we recorded at 7.36m is the largest recorded so far in Scotland and we finished the day with our biggest tree. This was a wonderful Cedar of Lebanon with massive low limbs. At over 9 metres in girth this is not the largest in Scotland but is probably in the top 5. A most impressive tree to have on your lawn!


We recorded nearly 50 trees during the day. Being up close to such great old trees is an experience not to be missed. There are still many more trees to record in this area and if you fancy joining us for a day then please get in touch. Our next outing will be later in October and will start, of course with coffee and scones!


Many thanks to the estate for being so welcoming and  for maintaining and cherishing such a fantastic collection of trees.


Keith Knight

Ancient Tree Verifier

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