Some of the most important trees in the country, which grow within sight of Bristol, are to be conserved by conservation charity, the National Trust, thanks to support from SC Johnson.
The collection of ancient and veteran trees can be found across a number of Bristol and North Somerset places – including Leigh Woods, Tyntesfield, Shirehampton Park, Failand and Clevedon Court – and consists of one of the largest populations of ancient and veteran trees in the South West. Ancient trees of this kind, which are usually between 150 and 900 years old, are uncommon, under threat, and in need of specialist conservation to ensure their survival.
‘Veteran and ancient trees don’t compete well with younger trees,’ explains Lisa Topham, Gardens and Countryside Manager for the National Trust’s Bristol portfolio, ‘and they can often find themselves shaded out, causing them to die. Or, they can become too top heavy and split apart. By thinning the surrounding vegetation and conducting specialist tree surgery, we can protect and prolong their lives.’
As well as being significant in their own right, these trees also provide vital habitats for local wildlife, and Leigh Woods and Tyntesfield are both sites of national significance because of their populations of invertebrates associated with the trees. A recent insect survey showed that 36 of their species are nationally rare, vulnerable and endangered, while one – a moth fly, Trichomyia minima – is completely new to science.
‘60% of the nation’s wildlife has declined in the last fifty years, so it’s crucial that these habitats are protected,’ says Lisa. ‘As well as the invertebrates at Tyntesfield and Leigh Woods, the trees and hedgerows around Bristol are home to hundreds of species of fungi, lichens and mosses, bats, birds, butterflies and dormice, many of which are rare and endangered.’
The conservation of these trees forms part of a five-year project to ensure that they are well managed and protected, which will also include the planting of new trees that will become the veteran trees of the future – in over 150 years’ time.
Visitors to Tyntesfield can pick up a new tree leaflet that highlights some of the most important trees on the estate, while at Leigh Woods, a downloadable tree walk guides visitors through the site’s population of veteran trees. Many of these trees will be conserved as part of the project which will commence in autumn 2017. Work will begin with specialist tree surgery and the thinning of vegetation around the trees most under threat, and will continue over the next five years.
More information is available on www.nationaltrust.org.uk/leigh-woods