They’ve recorded 15,000 trees and are branch­ing out to do even more

Ama­teur tree en­thu­si­asts are trav­el­ling round the coun­try record­ing spec­i­mens and have just hit a land­mark num­ber, but there is still a long way to go,

The Herald - - NEWS - re­ports MAU­REEN SUG­DEN

THEY are a ded­i­cated band of ama­teur tree hunters, on a quest to map and pro­tect the old­est and most im­por­tant spec­i­mens across the coun­try.

Now the Wood­land Trust has reached a ma­jor mile­stone – record­ing its 15,000th Scot­tish tree. As old as Bon­nie Prince Char­lie, the sweet chest­nut they noted is at Murthly Cas­tle in Perthshire.

Kylie Har­ri­son Mel­lor, the Trust’s cit­i­zen sci­ence of­fi­cer, said the his­toric record­ing is more than 300 years old and an im­por­tant marker for the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

She said: “Iden­ti­fy­ing where an­cient trees are takes us one step closer to giv­ing them the care and pro­tec­tion they need.

“So to­day’s record­ing of the 15,000th tree in Scot­land is re­ally worth cel­e­brat­ing – and so are the ef­forts of the ded­i­cated band of tree recorders and ver­i­fiers who do this im­por­tant work.”

The An­cient Tree In­ven­tory took root as the Her­itage Lot­tery funded An­cient Tree Hunt in Jan­uary 2006 and the first tree recorded in Scot­land was an an­cient sweet chest­nut at Roslin Chapel, Mid­loth­ian.

The sys­tem works in two stages: firstly, vol­un­teers record trees; sec­ondly, these are then checked by spe­cially trained ver­i­fiers. Around 400 peo­ple have recorded trees since the pro­ject be­gan and Scot­land presently has five ver­i­fiers.

The UK’S an­cient trees have no au­to­matic right of pro­tec­tion. There is no equiv­a­lent to Sched­uled An­cient Mon­u­ment sta­tus, which im­por­tant ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites have.

The Wood­land Trust says that “the fa­mous Fortin­gall Yew high­lights the dis­par­ity”.

Found grow­ing in the church­yard of the Perthshire vil­lage which shares its name, it is among the old­est trees in Europe – mod­ern ex­perts es­ti­mate the tree is be­tween 2,000 and 3,000 years old, al­though oth­ers be­lieve it could be a rem­nant of a post-ro­man Chris­tian site dat­ing back 1,500 years.

Ac­cord­ing to folk­lore, Pon­tius Pi­late – the Ro­man gover­nor who over­saw the cru­ci­fix­ion of Je­sus – was born in its shade and played there as a child.

But the Trust points out that it is the wall around the tree that at­tracts for­mal le­gal pro­tec­tion, rather than the tree it­self.

“An­cient trees are as much a part of our her­itage as stately homes, cathe­drals and works of art, but they don’t get the same pro­tec­tion,” Ms Har­ri­son Mel­lor adds.

Vi­tal statis­tics of the Murthly Cas­tle tree were taken on Thurs­day af­ter­noon by Judy Dowl­ing from St An­drews, Joan Sned­don from Largo, Noel Fo­jut from Ber­wick­shire, Clair Mcfar­lan from Dum­fries and Lorna Holl from Balmaha. It was recorded with a re­mark­able trunk girth of 5.5 me­tres. The tree it­self is es­ti­mated to be more than 300 years old. Ms Dowl­ing, who is lead ver­i­fier for Scot­land said: “It is amaz­ing to reach this mile­stone, but we still have lots to do.

“We hear about new trees all the time and I al­ways have my eyes peeled wher­ever I go around the coun­try. It takes you to some amaz­ing places. I have just loved be­ing a part of this.”

Wel­com­ing the tree hunters to Cas­tle Murthly Es­tate, Thomas Steuart Fothring­ham said: “We are de­lighted our sweet chest­nut is the 15,000th tree to go on the in­ven­tory.

“The de­signed land­scape has been a fea­ture at Murthly for half a mil­len­nium and con­tin­ues to be highly val­ued.”

There are 200 trees which are so iconic they have their own in­di­vid­ual names such as; Capon Oak, Mar Lodge Granny Pine, Drum­lan­rig Sy­camore, Rizzio’s Chest­nut and Glen Lyon Ash.

In Oc­to­ber, a spruce tree on the Isle of Eriskay in the Outer He­brides was named Scot­land’s Tree of the Year.

Netty’s Tree was nom­i­nated in the Wood­land Trust com­pe­ti­tion by Eoina Wil­son, who lives in In­ver­ness but orig­i­nally comes from the is­land. Judges chose six trees from pub­lic nom­i­na­tions which were then put to an on­line vote.

The spruce was, un­til re­cent times, the only tree on the windswept is­land.

It was planted more than 100 years ago by the poet, priest and land rights ac­tivist Fa­ther Al­lan Mcdon­ald, whose best­known poem was Eilein na h’oige – The Is­land of the Young.

It is named af­ter Netty Mac­don­ald, who lived on the nearby croft and en­cour­aged all the is­land’s chil­dren to play on the tree as their cries and laugh­ter re­minded her of her own fam­ily who had grown up and moved away to find work on the main­land.

We hear about new trees all the time and I al­ways have my eyes peeled wher­ever I go around the coun­try

A map of all the recorded trees can be viewed at ati.wood­landtrust.org.uk.

„ The Wood­land Trust’s Clair Mcfar­lan, Noel Fo­jut, Judy Dowl­ing, Lorna Holl and Joan Sned­don next to the an­cient sweet chest­nut at Murthly Cas­tle in Perthshire.

„ Ms Sned­don and Ms Dowl­ing mea­sure the tree.

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