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Ancient trees

Around 1,000 ancient trees have been recorded in the New Forest National Park. This is believed to be the highest concentration of ancient trees in Western Europe.

Immensely old, and full of character and charisma, ancient trees are rare. They have been sculpted by time and revered by generations of local people.

They are great survivors, and have lived through remarkable changes in the world around them. Many were fully grown trees when the Roundheads and Cavaliers were fighting the English Civil War or even when Elizabeth I defeated the Spanish Armada.

What are ancient and veteran trees?

Ancient oaks may be 400 to 800 years old, while beech can reach 300 to 400 years. The most ancient of all are yews, some of which are thought to be over 1,000 years old.  Typically, the oldest trees have a great girth, a hollow trunk and a much reduced crown.

Veteran trees will be the next generation of ancients. They are slightly younger in age, often still with a full crown, but clearly showing signs of age such as damaged branches or dieback.

Ancient trees are home to a whole host of wildlife. Their twisted bark, hollows and dead wood provide a multitude of specialist habitats, including nest sites for birds like the redstart.

The New Forest is one of the most important areas in Britain and Europe for lichens, beetles, bats and fungi dependent on very old trees, including many rare and threatened species.

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