Tree Places

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Sierra Andia Wood-pasture
Location: Sierra Andia, Navarre, Spain
Sierra Andia is part of a vast plateau of wood-pasture on the limestone mountains of northern Spain in Navarre. It is a spectacular place full of wonderful ancient pollard trees with their associated rare species, birds (including Griffon vultures) and wild flowers, especially in the spring. In this video Ted highlights the finding of axe marks in the heartwood of an hollow oak pollard and explains how the chips of wood would have been useful for shepherds for starting small fires for cooking.
Romania’s Wood-pastures
Location: Romania
Romania has some of the most wonderful wood-pastures chock full of ancient oaks, pollard hornbeams and old pear trees. Occasionally there are pastures with huge open-grown beech trees kept for their value for mast for pigs. These wood-pastures are used communally primarily for grazing, however the emphasis is changing from the traditional cattle and water buffalo to more and more sheep. This change in shepherding is leading to lots more trees being burnt in winter but also Common Agricultural Policy/funding is also driving more grass less trees. If visiting take a look at Remarkable Trees of Romania website and the map indicating where to find the best sites/collections of trees:
Veteran Trees of Cumbria
Location: Lowther, Cumbria
Jill & Ted visit the Lowther Estate with Ian Jack and surrounding area in Cumbria and are taken to see some lovely ancient Juniper and holly pollards, Crab Apple and Rowan as well as some amazing forestry beech timber giants.
Veteran Trees of Sicily
Location: Mount Etna, Sicily
One day during our visit to Sicily, we (also Graham Bathe and Gerard Pasola – from Catalonia) were taken right round Etna on a special 18Km tourist trail hosted by the Etna National Park Service. We were driven round the trail by their longest serving National Park Ranger and an English translator in an off road vehicle. This was all down to the Mayor of St’Alfio who arranged it all for us. We visited some incredible pollards and some volcano damaged trees. In Madonie National Park we saw the endemic Abies nebrodensis – only c18 largish trees exist and the notable/champion Sycamore and some other superb pollards in Piano Polo. Sicily is an astonishingly rich ancient and veteran tree island – well worth a trip.
Ancient Sweet Chestnuts of Sicily
Location: Sant’ Alfio, Sicily
Jill, Ted and their friends, Graham Bathe and Gerard Pasola, were invited by the Mayor of St’Alfio, Sicily (in the striped shirt on the left) to visit the famous UNESCO World Heritage tree named ‘Castagno dei Cento Cavalli’ (the ‘100 Horse Chestnut’). The legend says that in times past a Queen and her courtiers were caught out by a storm and all 100 of them took shelter under the crown of this tree. Now in four main parts (are these genetically the same and if so are they the result of the trunk growing out and separating into functional units or developing from layered branches while the centre has decayed away) – the overall size of the tree is breathtaking. Both this tree and the other – ‘Castagno della Nave’ (the Ship Chestnut), are threatened by the various diseases affecting sweet chestnuts across Europe but the little municipality is doing what it can to look after them as well as they can.

Both trees feature in Julian Hight’s book: World Tree Story – History and Legends of the world’s ancient trees. Now available in paperback only from:

The Beeches of Senegrière
Location: Southern France
High in the Cévennes mountain range, surrounded by a modern ski resort and beech plantation forestry, stands a remarkable grove of veteran beech pollards. Outstanding remnants, characteristic of the region’s ancient custom of cyclical pollarding, the trees provided a sustainable source of firewood and livestock fodder, creating a magical wood in the process.
Old Growth Beech Forest
Location: Southern France
This pocket handkerchief ‘refugia’ of old beech trees has been saved by its proximity to an old Abbey. By French forestry standards these beech trees are very big and some have veteran characteristics, although in the UK they might not stand out as particularly significant. The interesting point is that these beech trees are so close to the Mediterranean – although very high on the limestone mountains north of Nice. It was before we knew about the beech trees in Sicily and were looking for examples of the most southerly beech forests in Europe with old trees.