The Ancient Tree Inventory

An ancient oak tree at Keddleston Hall, Derbyshire (Credit: Nick Atkinson, The Woodland Trust)

Ancient trees are exceptional specimens which having lived beyond maturity have achieved a great age. They are old in comparison with other trees of the same species. Ancient trees can tell us a lot about the history of the land in which they sit and provide a tangible link to the historic events which they may have witnessed. They are standing nature reserves, providing niches for a wide range of creatures. For over ten years the Woodland Trust has been working with the Tree Register and Ancient Tree Forum to build a database of these vulnerable trees.

On the hunt for ancient trees

The Ancient Tree Inventory started as the Ancient Tree Hunt in 2004. The aim is to identify and map the oldest and most important trees in the UK. There are three categories of trees recorded on the Inventory; these are ancient, veteran and notable trees. Whilst ancient trees are our oldest, veteran trees may be younger but will have some characteristics which may be found on older trees. Notable trees are those which stand out in the local area, but may not be particularly old. Since the Inventory began more than 150,000 trees have been added to the map which is available on 

Anyone can get involved with the project by recording a tree onto the online form. Each record goes through a verification process to ensure it is correct. A team of more than 80 knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers check and verifies each record before it is made available to users of the data. The record of each tree will include the location, a measurement of the girth and the accessibility of the tree. There is also the option to record the veteran characteristics of the tree such as decaying wood in the crown or hollowing of the trunk. These features are incredibly important; they provide niches for species of bats or birds and a home for species of fungi or invertebrates.  Evidence of invertebrates or bats can be recorded as can the presence of fungi, lichen or other epiphytes.

A tool for planners, ecologists and landscape architects

The growing database gives us a much better understanding of the number of ancient trees in the UK. This tool is used by planners and developers to identify the most important trees. The dataset has also been used by ecologists to study the composition and history of trees in the landscape. The Ancient Tree Inventory dataset is available for those wishing to study ancient trees, if you are interested in finding out more about the dataset or gaining access to it please get in touch with Kylie Harrison Mellor, Citizen Science Officer, Woodland Trust.