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29 October 2014

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You are in: Wiltshire > Nature > Nature Features > Hug a 1,000 year old

Hug a 1,000 year old

They're fat, short, covered in growths and very, very old but the Woodland Trust still wants you to hug one this summer…

Wiltshire's Ancient Trees

They may have lived for 1,000 years plus.  Survived the black death, the war of the roses and Oliver Cromwell's reign as Lord Protector but, unlike the 5,000 listed buildings in this country, have little or no protection.

Forgotten in hedgerows, tucked away in gardens, hidden deep in woodland or just plain overlooked in a field they are Wiltshire's ancient trees and the Woodland Trust wants you to hunt them out and hug them.

The UK, it's thought, boasts more ancient trees then anywhere else in Northern Europe and yet no one knows exactly where they are or how many there are of them.

So, this summer, the Woodland Trust is launching an Ancient Tree Hunt to try and track down as many as 100,000 of the country's most ancient, veteran and notable trees.

And Wiltshire, it seems, offers some prime hunting grounds…

Wiltshire's Ancient Trees

Wiltshire's fattest and oldest

The Savernake Forest, for instance, not only boasts the largest number of broad leaf ancient trees in Southern Europe but probably the most famous of Wiltshire's trees… the Big Belly Oak or Pot Belly Oak.

Aged at around 1,000 years, and flaunting a waist measurement of well over 11 metres, it was the tree that got so fat in 2002 that it was threatening to split its sides until it was rescued by a timely steel girdle.

Despite its ample proportions, however, it's not the county's fattest according to the Ancient Tree Hunt registry.  That honour falls to a neighbouring oak that was recorded in March 2008 with a trunk girth of 11m 57cms. 

But despite a tree's waistline being, like us, a good indicator of its age… Wiltshire's fattest tree isn't also its oldest.

Yew trees, it seems, are a bit erratic when it comes to putting on the waistline inches and can even spend the odd year or two not growing at all.  As a result the comparatively slim Yew Tree, found in the churchyard at Tisbury Parish Church, may only boast a svelte 9m 10cm girth but has clocked up well over 1,000 years.

Wiltshire's Ancient Trees

Ancient Tree Hunting

But all that could be about to change… when the Ancient Tree Hunt gets into full swing.

In Wiltshire, it's been suggested, that the best places to track down a super-sized tree or two includes: Upper Chute near Andover; Lacock village on the Sustrans national route 4; south west of Calstone Wellington near Calne; Sidbury Hill near Tidworth; Edington near Westbury and at the National Trust’s Ashdown Park near Swindon.

And once you've found yourself a monster... all you've got to do is get a bear grip on it.

Wiltshire's Ancient Trees

'British Standard Hug'

Hugging a tree, according to organisers, is a good way of getting the measure of it.  A British Standard hug for an adult, for example, with arms outstretched fingertips-to-fingertips is about 1.5 metres.  For a child it's about half that.

And if you've got an oak boasting three adult hugs plus, a beech measuring two or a fast growing sweet chestnut stretching you to four… then you've got yourself a veteran.

Then to get it on the map, literally, all you've got to do is to log your fat finds by clicking on the link below:

Happy hunting…

last updated: 10/07/2008 at 08:30
created: 08/07/2008

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