Valuing veteran trees in the Faughan Valley
On one of the few sunny days we had back in January, eleven of our wonderful volunteers in the Faughan Valley undertook the first ‘Valuing and Managing of Veteran Trees’ basic day course in the region. This was delivered as part of the Trust wide initiative to train staff and volunteers to be veteran tree advocates and to help get veteran trees on our estate surveyed and recorded on the Ancient Tree Inventory. As one of the main aims of our ‘fragments to thriving forests’ Treescape project is to protect, restore and connect the precious remaining fragments of ancient woodland in the Faughan Valley, this course is particularly relevant. Volunteers learned how to define a veteran tree, explain why trees can live so long, describe how and where roots grow and why they are important. We also carried out a veteran tree survey on a magnificent veteran willow and an impressive mature ash tree who, due to its ageing characteristics and its position in the landscape should soon (in tree time) meet the criteria to be classified as veteran. Various management techniques for old trees, their surroundings and when these may be appropriate were also explored.
Red Brae – The field survey part of the day took place in Red Brae Wood… a magnificent, historic woodland purchased from a private owner in 2019 aided by the help of government compensation for some lost ground to the A6 road scheme. That same year, our team of volunteers along with our partners, the Loughs Agency, NI Water and contractors planted thousands of native trees to protect and enhance it, whilst also expanding the woodland habitat along banks of the River Faughan. Red Brae contains both Planted Ancient Woodland and Long-Established Woodland; including mature to veteran semi-natural high forest, wet woodland and new native planting. The semi-natural areas contain excellent priority woodland as you can see from the photo of the remarkable veteran willow in the wet woodland area. The same section of woodland also includes a very large veteran oak coppice (see photo). This acquisition is one of many significant steps being taken in the area to restore and connect ancient/long-established woodlands across the Faughan Valley.
Going forward, staff and volunteers aim to put this training into practice by carrying out veteran tree surveys both on and off our estate in the Faughan Valley in order to ensure similar majestic and rare trees/areas of woodland receive the appropriate protection and management. Due to the great interest in this topic shown by our enthusiastic volunteers we hope to run some veteran tree hunting field trips and another one day course in the Faughan in the not too distant future all being well. Hopefully it will give us all something to look forward to when our lives return to relative normality!
Thank you Avril McAllister (volunteer) for taking photos on the day.
To learn more about veteran trees you can visit the VETree project website which provides information and resources as part of the Europe –wide quality training programme in veteran tree management. https://vetree.eu/en/page/1/Home
Ancient Tree Inventory – Anyone can help us protect our valuable tree heritage by taking part in our citizen science project: https://ati.woodlandtrust.org.uk/
There are already more than 170,000 trees listed across the UK but there are thousands more to add. The website includes information on what we record, why we record and provides guides on how to record an old tree. For further information you can also read this Whittle article: https://whittle.woodlandtrust.org.uk/2020/03/20/in-this-time-of-seclusion-help-us-record-ancient-trees/
Bronagh Gallagher – Project Officer, Faughan Valley