The survey of veteran and significant trees is at the heart of the Association. This is organised through a coordinator in each parish or town who organises the survey and collects and collates the results. Our Veteran Tree Survey Handbook describes how we survey trees and the data that we record.
For most tree species (e.g. oak, ash) we only record trees with a girth greater than 3m. Some species do not grow to this size (e.g. hawthorn, field maple) so for these we use a smaller girth criterion of 1m. As well as recording data we aim to have a photograph of each tree surveyed.
We can never be sure that we have recorded every eligible tree and surveying is particularly challenging in woodland because of the large number of trees and the difficulty of assigning individual coordinates to each.
Surveying trees on private land requires discretion, and we haven't always been able to check every back garden even when a large tree is visible from the road. In some areas we have been unable to get permission to survey. The girths of some trees have been estimated where we couldn’t get access to measure them.
All trees recorded are shown on an interactive map on our website. As well as photos, some of the records have extra information attached as documents or web-links. The database and photos are sent to WBC, Thames Valley Environmental Record Centre (TVERC) and the Woodland Trust, for inclusion in their Ancient Tree Hunt survey.
In 2011, after the completion of the Wokingham Town survey, we ran a verification exercise on a sample of records to assess the accuracy of our early data and especially to refine grid references where less accurate GPS devices were used in the early years. For a tree to be verified it must have all its details checked by someone other than the original surveyor. We then refine the data and add a photograph where one was missing from the record. Occasionally we found two surveyors had separately recorded the same tree so we were then able to merge the details.
With the planting of the Jubilee oaks in 2012 (see below) we decided to set up a record of all commemorative and memorial trees in the Borough, separate from the veteran tree database. These records are less rigorous and the criteria for inclusion are more informal. Groups of trees as well as individual trees can be recorded. We currently assign the trees to a number of categories including Avenue, Commemorative, Community Orchard, Heritage Tree, Memorial, Significant hedges, Significant historically, Significant visually, Special, Unusual form, Unusual species.
The commemorative and memorial collection is accessible through the interactive map.
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Since May 2009, we have published Tree Watch, a quarterly newsletter, which includes articles about the activities of the Association as well as items of general interest related to trees. This is emailed to members, with current and back issues available from the website.
Several other ad hoc publications have been produced. All are on the website and some have been printed, including A Bearwood Tree Walk, and leaflets on the Montague House Oriental Plane and Jubilee Avenues of Wokingham Town. When the Wokingham Town team completed their survey, they published the Trees in Wokingham Town report which was sent to Town and Borough councillors and prompted the Borough's planting of Jubilee oaks in association with WDVTA.
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Wokingham's Tree Warden scheme was launched in 2012, and twenty-one members have signed up as tree wardens. Some parishes have none and we hope to encourage members to take on this role for their local area so that all towns and parishes in the borough are covered.
A warden has no training or specific responsibility other than an interest in, and concern for, trees. It's a purely informal role and members call themselves tree wardens only if they so wish. They are not expected to be experts and they have no delegated authority.
Over the past four years Wokingham's tree wardens have been involved with issues of unauthorised tree felling, monitoring newly planted trees, helping out with tree planting schemes and other local tree projects as well as commenting on development plans.
Soon after the scheme's launch, we were awarded £100 from the Tree Council which was spent on planting a disease resistant elm in Twyford.
A project to encourage the survival of hedge trees has proved successful in Cantley Park where four oak saplings are benefiting from more sensitive hedge management.
Children from the Hawthorns School helped with a tree warden project collecting young oak saplings from mature trees in Cantley Park. They are nurturing these young trees with the aim of planting them back in the Park ready to succeed some very old oak trees that are in decline.
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Events are generally planned under four main headings: talks, training, walks and visits. There are too many events to recall them all across ten years but some were very memorable.
We have had several nationally acknowledged experts agree to give talks for us, people such as Jill Butler from the Woodland Trust and Ted Green, the Founder President of The Ancient Tree Forum. Other speakers included Dick Greenaway MBE and Dr Helen Read from City of London and Burnham Beeches. Dendrochronologist Dr Martin Bridge gave a fascinating talk on old timbers in ships, houses and churches. Dr Glynn Percival has spoken to us several times on research activities that are aimed at finding methods to alleviate or control some of the currently prevalent tree pests and diseases.
Training workshops have been invaluable in assisting surveyors in identifying winter twigs, lichens, fungi associated with specific trees and much more.
Walks are a must and are often led by area coordinators who know their patch well. They are a great way to familiarise new surveyors with identifying trees but also a pleasant way to spend time getting to know new parts of the Borough and other members as well as exchanging tips and advice. Wandering around Arborfield, Shinfield and Wargrave reinforced just how beautiful the local woodlands are. Warburg Nature Reserve, Burnham Beeches and Whiteknights campus at the University of Reading were very popular walks. Sometimes a walk ends with a convivial pub lunch, always appreciated by members.
We have been lucky enough to have our requests to visit some exceptional places accepted and are often led by knowledgeable guides who tailor the visit to our interest in veteran trees. Tours around the trees known as 'Champions and Lions of Kew' and the ancient oaks in Windsor Park have been great favourites. Old houses often have wonderful specimen trees in the grounds and we have found some very special ones at Heckfield, Waltham Place and Pope’s Meadow amongst many other venues. On our most recent visit to Blenheim Palace we felt it a real privilege to be allowed into areas not open to the public at High Park to see trees over a thousand years old.
A very successful ‘Trees in Literature’ evening took place in collaboration with Wokingham Literary Society. This anniversary year we are planning a ‘Trees in the Arts’ day when we are hoping to work with the local Art Society and Camera Club.
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The website was launched early in 2011 to bring WDVTA's activities to a wider audience and raise public awareness of the huge contribution that trees (and oaks in particular) make to Wokingham's natural heritage and amenity.
The Wokingham Borough Council website has links to WDVTA and these are often the route by which visitors arrive at our site, where the Map and FAQ pages have proved popular.
By far the most frequent Google searches that bring users to the WDVTA web pages are queries about estimating the age of a tree and the most frequent topics that visitors raise via the 'Contact us' page are concerns about trees in Wokingham being damaged or cut down by developers or neighbours.
Through our network of parish coordinators, tree wardens and surveyors we try to reply promptly to all enquiries. Many of these requests and responses have helped us create the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the website.
About 70% of visitors use a desktop or laptop to access the site with tablet users accounting for about 18% of visits. 9% are smartphone users.
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In June 2012 Wokingham Borough Council invited WDVTA to collaborate with the officers of the Trees and Landscape team to organise the planting of 60 standard English oak trees across the borough to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. This was a wonderful opportunity to plant English oaks in places where they could grow to their full glory and be enjoyed by future generations.
Over 50 suggestions were received for potential sites and 44 were chosen after careful assessment. These included public open spaces, churchyards, nature reserves, roadside verges and school grounds. Care was taken to ensure the chosen sites were as well distributed across the Borough as possible.
The trees were bought from Barcham's nursery, Cambridge in June 2012. Heartwood Tree Surgery was contracted to plant the trees in the winter of 2012/13 and then to monitor and maintain them for five years. The trees were between five and seven years old and almost four metres tall when they were planted. Since their planting most have grown very well and the few that haven’t have been replaced.
Each oak has a numbered memorial plaque and has been recorded in the Woodland Trust's Royal Record. The Jubilee Tree Map shows the locations of all 60 trees.
Local community groups took part in planting ceremonies during 2012/13. The first was held at Wokingham Borough Council offices at Shute End on 24 November 2012 where the Mayor of Wokingham, Councillor Bob Wyatt, officiated for tree number one. At the ceremony in Cantley Park in March 2013, Councillor David Lee, Leader of Wokingham Borough Council and initiator of the project, welcomed trees numbered 59 and 60.
During October 2013 there was a display at the Council's Shute End offices describing the Jubilee planting project with photos of all the trees and the celebratory events. Young students from Hawthorns Primary School created delightful riddles about the wildlife found in oak trees.
As well as the trees being widely welcomed for their own sake, the planting and associated events generated considerable community interest among voluntary groups and local residents. All the sites are attractive and environmentally valuable and many have an interesting history. The presence of the Jubilee trees may well encourage people to visit places they would not otherwise know about and in some instances it has led to suggestions about further improvements to the sites including ideas for additional tree planting.
These 60 Jubilee trees should give pleasure to the people of Wokingham for decades, perhaps even centuries. They will also help remind everyone of Wokingham's history as part of Windsor Forest.
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From the start the Association has been asked from time to time to give talks to local organisations about our work. Many have been to local biodiversity and environmental groups like the Earley Environmental Group (EEG) and Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), others to organisations such as The Wokingham Society and the Woodley Rotary Club. Some have been to groups interested in history, and we have been pleased to talk to the Winnersh Local History Group and the University of the 3rd Age Historic Pathways group. We have also spoken to Schools in the Borough. These talks are always mutually beneficial as people will tell us about trees in areas they know well, such as their history, issues arising or trees that have been lost.
We have put on displays at events like parish fêtes and the Earley Green Fair where we can talk informally to people about what we do, show them our work and welcome new members.
We also work with parish and town councils through our network of members who act as coordinators for the survey in their local areas.
In 2014, following a talk we gave at the Bracknell Forest Recorders Day, we were asked to help the Bracknell Forest Biodiversity Officer set up a local group of tree surveyors. Following training sessions in 2015, the Bracknell Forest Veteran Tree Survey was set up and they are now surveying and recording trees in their area. We continue to liaise with them and their members are welcome to join our events.
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