A Champion for ancient trees
In recent weeks of lockdown, many of you will have been reminded of how important it is to stay connected to nature. I have been really impressed with the unwavering commitment of our volunteers in this unusual time and what really shines through from all of you wonderful volunteers is a well-rooted passion for trees. Many of us probably developed this passion for trees somewhere in our earlier years.
I was recently inspired by a young man called Aidan, who has discovered an exceptional passion for trees at a young age and has also been proactive in demonstrating his passion by recording and verifying over 120 trees to the ancient tree inventory! Aidan, accompanied by his mother as a co-volunteer, joined us as a volunteer verifier just before lockdown began and we are really grateful that he has continued to connect with the ancient tree inventory throughout recent weeks.
I asked Aidan to write the article below, to share his story about what inspires his love of trees. I hope you enjoy reading the article below and that you are all finding ways to continue to be inspired by the world of trees in this unusual period.
A big thank you to Aidan for taking the time to share your tree talents with us below – keep up the great work!
Tom (citizen science officer – ancient tree inventory)
Article by Aidan Champion
At 13 I am apparently the youngest ever volunteer verifier for the ATI, which is quite a cool accolade! I have always loved trees. Where this passion came from, I do not know, but my parents tell me that as a baby I would gaze up at the canopies of the urban trees at Tooting Bec Common in London from my pushchair. My interest has been nurtured by several of my family members, e.g. my Aunts, Grandma and my Great Uncle who is fortunate enough to have a superb collection of trees in his garden, and this is one of my favourite places to go tree hunting and just being with trees in general.
I have spent most of my life in Surrey and some of my favourite trees in my area are the ancient oaks and chestnuts at Albury Park, the towering conifers and large beeches at Hascombe Hill and the remarkable trees at Polecat Copse; home to some of the tallest trees in the south east. I regularly go to Dorset and I have recorded some pretty good trees there, such as a large veteran Lucombe oak in Frampton.
I’m a bit obsessed with Monterey cypresses, which the West Country has in abundance, so I try to record every large one I see that’s accessible. My favourite tree in the world is a Monterey cypress ‘Lutea’ in a private garden in Dorset, this is one of the trees that really kickstarted my passion at a young age.
Surrey is a bit too inland for Monterey cypresses to thrive as the largest one I know of in Surrey has a girth of 4.39m, while monumental for its location, it is a bit lacking compared to some of the big ones in the West Country and Ireland.
I also find ancient oaks, with their massive trunks, copious amounts of dead wood and large hollows very majestic; it’s like each one has its own character. Some of the best oaks I have recorded are a number of veterans, and indeed ancients, at Albury Park.
I find there’s something addictive about measuring and recording trees – I think it’s knowing that, somewhere out there, there must be a bigger and better tree to find, measure and record for other people to find after you. I also get a buzz in my stomach when I find a new large tree that’s not been recorded before. I have loved trees my whole life, but I’ve only been recording them since last year, an activity that has brought me a whole lot closer to trees and to a community of like-minded people and experts.
Being a volunteer for the ATI has allowed me to actively pursue my love of trees both in the woods, and at home recording this important data. I have learnt plenty of new things about trees. As well as recording trees, I also like drawing them. I usually draw trees from my imagination, but occasionally I do a sketch from a photo – I have included some of my sketches below.