Special trees need special protection

The Woodland Trust is campaigning for the UK’s most important ancient, veteran and historical trees to receive special protection through the creation of a national register of V.I.Trees.

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At present, all manner of man-made constructions have heritage protection, including a Victorian lamppost, the Abbey Road zebra crossing made famous by the Beatles, and even a public urinal with ‘special historical interest’. However, the only tree in Britain to have official national recognition is the Elfin Oak – a carved oak stump in Kensington Gardens, which is registered as a Grade II listed building.

Ancient and veteran trees are of immense ecological, cultural and historical significance, but they are also vulnerable, easily damaged and more irreplaceable than man-made monuments. This is why the Woodland Trust has launched the V.I.Trees (Very Important Trees) campaign to call for an official process of registering and protecting the nation’s most cherished trees.

The charity argues that listing significant trees would help to raise awareness of our tree heritage, as well as encouraging owners of these living treasures to recognise their worth and help preserve them for the benefit of present and future generations. A national register of V.I.Trees would work in a similar way to the Blue Plaque scheme, which designates buildings or places as being of national importance due to their association with historical events or famous people.

Trees which might benefit from such a list include the Ankerwycke Yew in Surrey, which is thought to be around 2,500 years old, and the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, which legend has it, once sheltered Robin Hood.

By celebrating its special trees through a formal system, the UK would be joining many other European countries, including Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Spain and Belgium, as well as Sweden, which has a national designation of important trees called Natur Minne (natural memory).

To add your voice to the campaign, you can send a message of support via the Trust’s website and help secure the future of Trees of National Special Interest in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

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Charlotte Rixon

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