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Wokingham District Veteran Tree Association
10th Anniversary Report

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WHAT WE DO

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Limes, Langborough Recreation Ground

An oak tree grows for 300 years, rests for 300 years, and then spends the next 300 years gracefully expiring.

Anon

Survey

front page of surveyors' handbook

The survey of veteran and significant trees is at the heart of the Association. A coordinator in each parish or town 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, measured at a height of 1.5m. 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.

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 the survey Map. As well as photos, some of the records have extra information attached as documents or web links. The database and photos are sent to Wokingham Borough Council (WBC), Thames Valley Environmental Record Centre (TVERC) and the Woodland Trust for inclusion in their Ancient Tree Hunt survey.

Alison surveying in wood
Chairman surveying sweet chestnut

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 when less accurate GPS devices had been 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 is missing from the record. We were gratified to find that the accuracy of our original data was good.

In 2013 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 as well as individual trees can be recorded. We assign the trees to categories such as Commemorative, Memorial, Significant hedges, Significant historically, and Unusual species.

The commemorative and memorial collection is accessible through the interactive map.

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Tree Wardens

Wokingham's Tree Warden scheme was launched in 2012 and currently has twenty three members, though not yet one in every parish.

Children with pots of saplings
Hawthorns students potting oak saplings at Cantley Park

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 only call themselves tree wardens if they so wish. They are not expected to be experts and they have no delegated authority.

However, over the past four years Wokingham's tree wardens have been active dealing 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.

Our tree wardens were awarded £100 from the Tree Council which was spent on planting a disease resistant elm in Twyford in 2013.

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.

Students from The Hawthorns School helped with a project collecting 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 oaks that are in decline.

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Outreach

WDVTA has been asked to speak to many organisations such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England, The Wokingham Society, a U3A Historic Pathways group, Rotary clubs and local schools. These talks are mutually beneficial as people tell us about trees in areas they know well, such as their history, issues arising or trees that have been lost.

We regularly put on displays at parish fȇtes and Earley Green Fair where we showcase our work and welcome new members.

WDVTA tent at fair
Earley Green Fair
two people measuring tree girth
Training Bracknell surveyors

The Association works with parish and town councils through our network of members who act as coordinators for the survey in their local areas.

In 2014 we spoke at the Bracknell Forest Recorders Day and their Biodiversity Officer asked us to help set up a local group of tree surveyors. Following training sessions in 2015 the Bracknell Forest Veteran Tree Survey was successfully launched and we continue to liaise with them.

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Publications

3 WDVTA leaflets
WDVTA leaflets

Since May 2009, we have published Tree Watch, a quarterly newsletter which includes articles about Association activities and items of interest about trees. This is emailed to members and all issues are available from the website.

Other publications have been produced including A Bearwood Tree Walk, Montague House Oriental Plane and Jubilee Avenues of Wokingham Town. When the Wokingham Town team completed their survey, their report Trees in Wokingham Town prompted the Borough’s planting of Jubilee oaks in association with WDVTA. All publications are available online and some have been printed as leaflets.

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Events

Events are planned under four main headings: talks, training, walks and visits.

We have appreciated talks from nationally acknowledged experts such as Jill Butler from the Woodland Trust, Ted Green the Founder President of The Ancient Tree Forum, Dr Helen Read from Burnham Beeches, UCL dendrochronologist Dr Martin Bridge who worked on the Mary Rose and Dr Glynn Percival who updates us annually on current research on tree diseases and pests.

Training workshops have been invaluable in assisting surveyors to identify winter twigs, lichens, fungi associated with specific trees and much more.

We get to know new parts of the Borough on walks led by local members, when many lasting friendships have been formed. Wandering around Arborfield, Barkham or Wargrave reminds us of how beautiful and important our woodlands are. Further afield, Warburg Nature Reserve, Burnham Beeches and the Whiteknights campus at the University of Reading proved popular. Sometimes a walk ends with a convivial pub lunch, always appreciated by members. Our visits have been to many exceptional places with expert guides tailoring their tour to our interest in veteran trees. Visits have included Windsor Great Park with some of Europe’s oldest oaks, and Kew to see the trees known as the ‘Champions and Lions of Kew’.

Turners oak, Kew
Windsor Great Park

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. On our most recent visit to Blenheim Palace we felt it a real privilege to be allowed into High Park, not normally open to the public, some of whose trees are over a thousand years old.

Kew Gardens
High Park, Blenheim
Heckfield Place

We sometimes arrange special events such as ‘Trees in Literature’, a collaboration with Wokingham Literary Society.

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Website

iphone showing wdvta page

The website was launched in 2011 to bring WDVTA's activities to a wider audience and raise public awareness of the huge contribution that trees make to Wokingham's natural heritage.

The Wokingham Borough Council website has links to WDVTA and visitors often arrive at our site through this route, where the Map and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) pages have proved popular.

The most frequent Google searches bringing users to the WDVTA web pages are queries about estimating the age of trees. The most frequent topics raised via the Contact us page are concerns about trees being damaged or cut down by developers or neighbours.

Through our membership network we try to reply promptly to all enquiries. These requests and responses have helped us create the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

About 70% of visitors use a desktop or laptop to access the site, with tablet users accounting for about 18% of visits and smartphone users currently about 9%. No doubt these proportions will change.

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The Jubilee Oaks Project

In June 2012 Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) 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.

44 attractive sites well distributed across the Borough were chosen. They included public open spaces, churchyards, nature reserves, roadside verges and school grounds. The trees were bought from Barcham's nursery, Cambridge, and 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 5 and 7 years old and almost 4m tall when planted. Most have grown very well and the few that have not, 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 for every tree during 2012/13. The first was held at WBC offices at Shute End on 24 November 2012 where the Mayor of Wokingham, Councillor Bob Wyatt, officiated for tree number 1. 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. All the ceremonies are recorded on the Jubilee Trees page. In October 2013 there was a display at the Council’s Shute End offices describing the project with photographs of all the trees and the celebratory events.

The trees have generated considerable community interest among voluntary groups and local residents. In some instances the Jubilee tree planting has led to suggestions for further improvements to sites such as the planting of additional trees. They should give pleasure to local people for decades, perhaps even centuries, and help remind everyone of Wokingham’s history as part of Windsor Forest.

Jubilee Tree 08, Avalon Road, Earley
Jubilee Tree 57, Ali's Pond, Sonning
Jubilee Tree 23, Finchampstead Church Green
Jubilee Tree 52, Ryeish Pavilion

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