Ancient trees are part of our landscape, our art and our history. As living relics of the ‘wild woods’ they have inspired a sense of awe and mystery for 1000s of years. Our most renowned native tree – the oak – has for centuries been a symbol of strength and survival. It has been a source of inspiration for culture and folklore since the Druids worshipped in groves of oaks and ancients kings were adorned with crowns of oak leaves.
Our oldest oak trees emerged from their acorns as long as one thousand years ago – around the time of the Domesday book. The greatest collection of these trees is in Windsor Great Park and they only survive due to the custodianship provided by Kings and Queens over the centuries. These are some of the largest and most astonishing living things in Britain. Throughout their lifetime they will have witnessed great historical events, and even the transition of our cultural identity and concept of nationhood. They will also have endured dynamic changes to our landscapes and to the diversity of our flora and fauna.
Ancient woodlands are one of our richest habitats. Yet only fragments remain. And these remnants are becoming increasingly disconnected from the people that have helped to shape them. By the middle of the century it is predicted that 80% of the population will live in cities and so this detachment from the natural world will only increase.