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Tree graffiti

Tell us your sightings

The New Forest has the densest population of ancient and veteran trees in Europe, so it’s little wonder some of them bear marks from many years ago.

While graffiti is seen as a modern blight on urban areas, in the depths of the Forest these ancient scribblings are a window into the past, revealing how some of our ancestors used the area.

We’re calling for sightings of this ‘tree graffiti’ – some of which dates back hundreds of years. You can let us know via the form below.


Why do we need your help?

Much like archaeological remains, tree graffiti (also known as an arborglyph) is under threat. Over time, the marks are warping or are being damaged by animals or humans. Trees blowing over or dying also threaten the longevity of these historic records.

To date, there’s no central record of the known tree graffiti found across the New Forest. We want to be able to refer back to these glimpses into the New Forest’s past, even when the trees themselves are lost.

Your findings will help to map and record the lost and forgotten stories of the New Forest woodlands in a new database which the public can access. It will allow everyone from researchers and landowners to schools and community groups to see how people have interacted with trees here over the centuries.


What can you look out for?

Dates, pictures, poems and royal marks can all be found throughout the New Forest. These marks have been left by many different people, including foresters, Second World War soldiers, Kingsmen and even those wanting protection from witches.

Among the most common tree graffiti in the New Forest is the King’s Mark. This is shown as a broad arrow head, and was used to identify trees reserved for building Royal Navy ships. Once iron and steel were introduced to shipbuilding, the trees remained untouched, and still bear their royal mark to this day. Other graffiti to look out for are initials and names. Or if you’re very lucky you may find a picture carved into a tree. These vary from eagles to boats, houses and even people. Concentric circles, or ‘witch’s marks’, are thought to have been carved into trees to ward off evil spirits.


How can you help?

When out for a stroll, take a photograph of any marks that you find and share them via the form below. Please remember that New Forest trees are fragile and support an array of life, so don’t carve any new marks on trees.

As part of this citizen science project, we’ll take your name so we can give you a credit for your findings, although you don’t have to supply it.

We’re only looking to record the tree graffiti found across public woodlands in the New Forest, so please don’t enter private land.


Something to share? Tell us here:



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