Nature Blog Network

Veteran tree

The process of granting planning permission for the proposed bungalow on the field included a number of objections on ecological grounds. These gave rise to a number of reports considering a number of issues with a variety of opinions, some of which will be considered in the next few posts. We start with the 'veteran tree'.

The question of a 'veteran tree' arose from a passing comment in the bat survey which stated that one of the proposed trees in the curtilage of the bungalow was a 'veteran tree' and so subject to the restrictions and considerations protecting such trees. This tree was identified as a coppiced willow. The formal tree survey however identified it as an ash and a third opinion concurred, adding that in their opinion it did not show any features of being a veteran tree.

panorama 2

(picture mine)

Helpfully, the term 'veteran tree' appears not to have a precise definition. The Ancient Tree Forum defines it thus:

'a veteran tree can be any age, but it is a tree which shows ancient characteristics such as [see below]. These may not just be due to age, but could result from natural damage, management, or the tree's environment. Ancient trees are all veterans, but not all veterans are ancient.'

Just to complicate things, the age of an ancient tree varies with the species but they share a set of common features:

  • a low, fat and squat shape, because the crown has retrenched through age
  • a wide trunk compared with others of the same species
  • hollowing of the trunk (not always visible)

And to confuse things further, they also identify a heritage tree (part of our history and culture) and a notable tree (of particular significance locally)

The Royal Forestry Society also comment on the wide range of fauna and fungal bodies which can be supported by a veteran tree, due to the long period of stability and continuity. They also often reflect historical management practices such as pollarding or coppicing.

The Woodland Trust has mapped three veteran trees in Rossendale, all on Burnley Road East. There are a number in Edenfield, which may reflect better registration in that area. Interestingly there is a notable Birch tree near Birch village outside Rochdale.