Wiltshire oak tree declared UK's tallest

media captionEstate staff at Stourhead say having the tallest oak is "very special"

A 200-year-old tree on a Wiltshire estate has been officially declared the tallest oak in the UK.

The 132.5ft (40.4m) English oak, in the grounds of the National Trust Stourhead estate, was measured by an expert on behalf of The Tree Register charity.

Standing in a clump of tall oaks, the tree's growth has been put down to rich soil and its need to compete for light.

Alan Power, estate manager at Stourhead, said having the tallest oak in the country was "very special".

The champion tree, on the 2,650-acre estate, stands on a sheltered slope surrounded by a clump of six very tall old oak trees.

But unlike other long-lived slow-growing oaks, it is tall and slim, with a trunk circumference of just over three metres.

'Excellent' soil

"This type of oak tends to grow short and stumpy but [being] surrounded by other trees has encouraged this one to push up for the light and grow much taller," said Mr Power.

"It is also in a natural, mixed woodland where the soil is excellent with a good amount of leaf mould, which helps retain the moisture so it never dries out, even in a drought.

image captionProfessional tree climber Waldo Etherington scaled the 40m tree

"We don't know if it was planted deliberately or whether it just grew naturally.

"But we are really fortunate that we have a number of exotic champion trees at Stourhead and to now have a native champion tree is very special."

The tree was believed to be a possible champion after it was measured by laser by a representative of the European Champion Tree Forum in July.

But the fully verified measurement, which requires the tree to be physically scaled and a tape measure dropped to the ground, was carried out by professional tree climber Waldo Etherington.

The oak is the first native champion to have been recognised in the National Trust estate gardens.

And David Alderman, from the Tree Register of the British Isles, said "crowning a new champion tree" was "very exciting news".

"In other parts of Europe they reach up to 43 to 44 metres but that's about their limit," he said.

"This is exceptionally tall for an oak tree, not just in the UK but in northern Europe."

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