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Wokingham District Veteran Tree Association
10th Anniversary Report

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Report index

  1. Introduction
  2. How we started
  3. Activities
  4. Parishes & Towns
  5. What we have learned
  6. Looking forward
  7. References
  8. Acknowledgements
  9. Map
  10. Appendix - Table of Parish Data

Miscellaneous photos

The Parishes and Towns

Arborfield and Newland

Arborfield and Newland parish boundary
Survey statusWell underway
Trees recorded634
English oak57%
Common lime6%
Sweet chestnut5%

This parish was, and still is, largely rural. It has changed little in character since the WDVTA Survey began 10 years ago. The parish is blessed with areas of ancient and semi-natural woodland such as Hazeltons Copse, Pound Copse, Long Copse and part of The Coombes, where the trees are covered by Tree Preservation Orders. Other wildlife sites include Arborfield Bridge Meadow, the former Bearwood Estate with woods and lake, part of the Loddon River, Gravel Pit Wood and The Holt. The last of these, The Holt, contains two outstanding English oaks (MRN 4900  and MRN 6416) which sadly are not visible to the public.

The parish is fortunate to own Arborfield Park on the Swallowfield Road and in 1998 local groups and individuals were invited to sponsor a tree to be planted here. In response 115 trees were planted and although a few have been replaced, the majority are flourishing and enhancing the Park for all to enjoy.

When the Survey began there were three major land owners, Reading University, Farley Farms Estate and The Royal Navy School Foundation, the latter owning the whole of the Bearwood Estate. This included Bearwood College with its wonderful parkland with many trees including an avenue of Wellingtonia and a number of Tree Register of the British Isles (TROBI) trees of which the Lucombe Oak (MRN 5611) is a fine example. Between 2012 and 2014 the Bearwood Estate was split up and sold to a number of buyers. The trees in the area had been surveyed and include the remains of an old orchard. The Bearwood Lakes Golf Club (situated partly in Barkham) is now privately owned and has been fully surveyed.

Within the bounds of the University land is the old ruined church and churchyard of St Bartholomew where three ancient yews are to be found. One of these (MRN 2395) appears on the Ancient Tree Register and has been recorded as the 9th largest yew in a Berkshire churchyard, a notable tree. Close by, but not visible to the public, is a mighty horse chestnut (MRN 5253) which is located behind "Aberleigh" and is thought to be the largest on Reading University land.

The parish contains several Public Rights of Way and one of these, known as Wokingham Lane, forms a boundary with Swallowfield parish. On the south of this byway is a tree known as Bound Oak (MRN 4197), thought by some to be more than 650 years old. It has suffered from being set alight but it still survives, a very special tree with an interesting history. Details of this tree, the Bearwood Estate, trees connected with Arborfield Hall and others may be found on the Arborfield Local History Website.

Yew in churchyard
MRN 2395-2861
Hollowed out tree
MRN 4197-5729
Hollowed out tree
MRN 4197-4277
Lucombe oak
MRN 5611-6332
Lucombe oak
MRN5611-6354
Lucombe oak
MRN5611-6331
English oak
MRN4900-5175
English oak
MRN4900-5172
English oak
MRN4900-5176
English oak
MRN5253-5662
 

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Barkham

Barkham parish boundary
Survey statusComplete
Trees recorded829
English oak39%
Common lime11%
Hawthorn9%

Trees are implied in the very name of the parish, historically (in 952 AD) named 'Beorchamme' interpreted as 'Birch tree meadow' [1]. Much of the parish is rural, on level land, mostly London clay. This is agricultural, comprising pasture, meadow and arable some of which is wet and boggy and cut by ditches and a brook. Here veteran willow and alder grow; the largest alder is a multi-stem, MRN 7107 of 6.5m girth at 0.2m above ground level in the stream-side garden of an 18th century cottage. The fields themselves are bordered by ash and field maples. A large acreage of this level landscape is owned by Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) and let to tenant farmers. English oaks grow everywhere in the parish.

Also on WBC land is a distinctive four-line avenue of 88 limes about 400m long, comprising European and small-leaf varieties, planted for John Walter III of Bear Wood in the winter of 1885-6. The largest girth is MRN 4658 of 3.5m at 1.5m but sadly one of the many trees in the avenue that are now falling in high winds.

Sandy and gravel areas on the north side of the parish and the south-east fringes of a major area of woodland, including both Coppid and Barkham Hills, favour veteran sweet chestnut, silver birch, beech and holly. Adjacent to pasture in this area to the north of Barkham Manor, we recorded three magnificent maiden English oaks which, measured at 1.5m from ground level, have a girth of 7m (MRN 7125); 6.4m (MRN 7128) and 5.2m (MRN 7666) and all are visible from bridleways.

We also recorded an oriental plane (MRN 1887), girth 6.7m at 0.3m, well-propped, possibly planted in the 17th century in the grounds of the Manor house.

Some of the largest veteran trees of their species are in this area and are multi-stem. These include a beech just on the edge of a golf-course, MRN 7660, whose girth is 4.1m at ground level, a cradle for many huge fungus ganodermas; also a significant holly, MRN 7044 whose girth is 5.3m at the ground with eight stems, and a sweet chestnut on the fringe of the woodland at Foxhill, MRN 3341 which measures 5.8m at ground level.

Rather fewer veteran trees of course were found in gardens, but there are some. Roadside veteran English oaks are also important in Barkham. We also found three relic orchards in the parish, one of apples, pears and a plum tree, another mostly of apples and a third almost exclusively of plum trees.

We began recording veteran trees in 2007 and had recorded and photographed all the veteran trees then available to us by the end of summer 2014. In November 2016 a new 14.5ha public area, Hazebrook Meadows, was opened to the public on former MOD land and we are continuing to record the many veteran trees now available to us there.

Unfortunately, gaining permission for access has been a problem where land is privately owned, including the MOD land. This represented a large proportion of the whole parish and is the reason why, on the WDVTA map, the extensive woodland in Barkham has few veteran tree markers. Exceptions are along woodland byways, bridleways and footpaths. A wild service tree can be seen from intersecting footpaths in the woodland and in the very middle, where we did get permission, we found yews. One of these was the largest in the parish, a multi-stem, MRN 4906 whose girth measured 4.1m at ground level.

Very little disease was found on our veteran trees, although a number of English oaks to the west of the parish had mildew. Bracket fungi are not uncommon and 'chicken of the woods' (Polyporus sulphureus) fungus was seen on a couple of English oaks.

One of the saddest sights is barbed wire attached to tree trunks many years ago and now surrounded by the expanding tree growth. It is sad too to see large veteran roadside English oaks brutally pruned, or felled because of being stag-headed. Oliver Rackham tells us 'stag headed oaks have been in that condition for several decades …. stag head is a normal condition' (1996, p 226) [2].

At least 89 trees and groups of trees have been issued with Tree Preservation Orders over the last few years and all trees within the Coombes woodland are subject to a TPO, as is one roadside copse and some groups of trees within the garrison development.

References

There is a leaflet showing Public Rights of Way across Barkham and neighbourhood published by Wokingham Borough Council.

  1. GELLING, M 1973 The Place Names of Berkshire part 1 English Place Name Society XLIX, Cambridge
  2. RACKHAM, Oliver 2000 The History of the Countryside the classic history of Britain's landscape, flora and fauna. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London
MRN4906-5213
MRN7666-10179
MRN1887-1946
MRN7660-10096
MRN7660-10094
MRN7666-10177
MRN7666-10178
MRN7666_AG_7Apr17
MRN1887-1947
MRN1887-1944
 

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Charvil

Charvil parish boundary
Survey statusTo be verified
Trees recorded107
English oak53%
Willow21%
Ash9%

Charvil is one of the smallest parishes in the Borough. It stretches from the River Thames in the north to the gravel pits bordering the river Loddon in the south with the expanded village close to the A4 in the centre.

Along the streams and drainage channels, both towards the river Thames and in Charvil Country Park, are many large willows, for example the 5m girth crack willow (MRN 3767). Several of these have been pollarded in the past reflecting an historical osier industry.

There is a row of large limes alongside the public park next to the village primary school and oak and ash grow in field hedge boundaries and along the older roads of the village, such as Park Lane (MRN 534 and MRN MRN 544) and Waingels Road (MRN 3799) as well as around the edge of Charvil Meadows (MRN 491).

MRN534-7320
MRN491-2491
MRN544-7308
MRN3799-10633
MRN3767-7325 Pollarded willow
 

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Earley

Earley Town boundary
Survey statusComplete
Trees recorded509
English oak57%
Horse Chestnut6%
Ash4%

The name 'Earley' probably derives from the Anglo Saxon – ‘Wood of Eagles’ [1]. From having 100 inhabitants in Domesday times it has now reached over 30,000.

Unlike other areas of Wokingham Borough, Earley has seen little change over the last ten years but the 1980s saw a very dramatic transition with the building of the Lower Earley development. When surveying we were thrilled to come across footpaths and cycle routes created from old lanes edged with their original hedges and trees, and large oaks remaining as remnants of hedgerows in areas such as the Maiden Lane car park. These mark very early boundary lines, which we cross-referenced with old maps. Someone had the foresight to retain these important features.

Other natural areas which set Earley apart from other local townships:

Near Moor Copse, on the edge of the playing field, are two large oaks (MRN 2814 and MRN 2815). Known as the ‘Gemini Oak’, so named by a local councillor, they have an unusual form, having merged and then split to form a skewed letter ‘H’.

Redhatch Copse has several veterans and has been an ancient copse for several hundred years, as witnessed by its unchanged shape from early maps to present day. There is now access for local residents, although human infringement has made it very different from the working copse of earlier years filled with wild flowers.

The Loddon floodplain forms part of the southern fringe of Earley and has several veterans, mainly oaks in remnant hedgerows.

References:

  1. Earley Days, published 2001 Earley Local History Group.
MRN5930-6940
MRN5930-6943
MRN4642-28Feb17
MRN3386-3375
 

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Finchampstead

Finchampstead parish boundary
Survey statusWell underway
Trees recorded361
English oak50%
Wellingtonia31%
Beech5%

Finchampstead is a parish of two parts. The northern area around California Crossroads is fairly urban while the Village to the south tends to be more rural. Overall, the parish can be regarded as rural and it is certainly well wooded. Over the past ten years the northern urbanisation has continued with more and more homes being built, usually in modern estates. The parish has, however, happily managed to retain much of the original green spaces and woodland.

To the south the parish boundary with Hampshire is defined by the river Blackwater. Along this stretch of valley extensive gravel extraction and some restoration has taken place over the last 20-30 years. This activity is now happily, albeit slowly, drawing to a close. This will leave us with a newly designed landscape featuring a beautiful mix of lakes, trees and grassland, with rights of way providing public access. In due course this new landscape will become the basis for a new and important nature reserve, managed by the RSPB.

Finchampstead is blessed with a number of attractive areas of natural heath and woodland including the Ridges, Simons Wood, Wellingtonia Avenue and California Country Park. They are populated with a wide variety of trees and shrubs including oak, beech, ash, holly, Scots pine and birch. The orchid broad-leafed Helleborine (Epipactis helleborine) grows in the woodland fringes of The Ridges and Simons Wood.

An ancient Grade I listed bell barrow can be found in Warren Woods and a Roman road called the Devils Highway traverses the fields to the south. The Conservation Area around St James' Church is home to some excellent examples of oak, red oak and yew, including the very large 5.7m girth English oak in the churchyard itself. One common yew (MRN 3972) is so old it is held together by a large metal band around the trunk. It can be found in the Ancient Yew Register. Some of the trees near the church have been planted over the years to commemorate special events such as Queen Victoria's Jubilee. These include a red oak (MRN 3963) planted in 1935 to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V.

Wellingtonia Avenue was planted in 1869 to commemorate The Duke of Wellington and comprises some 100 trees, with a typical girth averaging around 6m. It provides a spectacular vista as you arrive in the Parish from nearby Crowthorne. The Parish has an extensive network of well-maintained footpaths and bridleways, which give walkers great views of the local trees and landscape. Visitors to The Ridges have an excellent view to the south, over neighbouring Hampshire.

Three Jubilee oaks were planted in Burnmoor Meadow and the Parish Council has continued this excellent idea with a further six trees planted in the last four years. Five of these were English oaks and one is a river birch where the ground is very wet. It is hoped these will form an impressive avenue over the coming years.

The Parish Council have published a number of guided walks on their website. More are planned with details on the  Finchampstead Council website.

MRN3972-3976
MRN3963-11190
MRN2494-11416 Wellingtonia Avenue
MRN 3967
 

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Hurst

Hurst parish boundary
Survey statusWell underway
Trees recorded182
English oak80%
Ash9%
Willow6%

The rural parish of St. Nicholas Hurst is the largest in the Wokingham Borough covering some seven and a half square miles. Once part of Windsor Great Forest a large proportion of the parish is now open farmland. The river Loddon forms the western parish boundary where old gravel workings on the alluvial flood plain have been used to create several large lakes forming the heart of Dinton Pastures Country Park. These lakes, some developed into wildfowl bird sanctuaries, interspersed with heavily wooded areas, form a natural habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and unrestricted tree growth. The wooded areas are traversed by watercourses, some delineated by large oaks marking ancient field boundaries.

The majority of our surveyed trees are oaks, relatively few ash, and a large number are within the Country Park. The largest oak found there is MRN 361, a multi-stem with an impressive 8.2m girth. The rest of the trees in the parish are mainly oaks in hedges and ditches marking present day field boundaries. Many of these are over 5m girth, but the largest maiden, MRN 2163, on the border with Twyford was re-measured in 2016 with a girth of 6.3m and so is possibly 450 years old.

Along Dunt Lane, seven large pollarded white willows have been recorded (e.g. MRN 1276). The history of Hurst records that as well as making baskets, willow was used for equipment to catch fish.

The churchyard has a large 4.9m girth yew tree (MRN 2680) which is on the Ancient Yew Register and was estimated to be 370 years old in 1988 by the Conservation Foundation Yew Tree Campaign.

The parish has several private country estates which have yet to be surveyed.

A very comprehensive description of the history of Hurst from ancient to recent times, illustrated with numerous maps and photographs, can be found in the "CD-Rom of Hurst" created from "The Book of Hurst" written by Henry Farrar and published in 1984. This includes the very early and changing nature of Windsor Forest, its population, occupations, manors, notable people and houses. The CD-ROM can be read/downloaded free from the Hurst Village Society website.

MRN2163-11291
MRN2163-2259
MRN2680-8504
MRN361-5140
MRN2680-8503
MRN1276-1319
 

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Remenham

Remenham parish boundary
Survey statusWell underway
Trees recorded145
English oak34%
Horse Chestnut16%
Plane7%

Remenham is home to many fine trees that can be enjoyed from public footpaths running through and alongside farmland, large gardens and the River Thames, for example the English oak near Aston (MRN 2781). The spacious, open land provides a splendid setting for large trees of a variety of species to grow to their full glory. There is an especially interesting veteran English oak (MRN 1369) that can be seen growing near a footpath in parkland with an extraordinary girth of 7.2m. It may not be as old as its girth suggests because of the extensive burring round the base of the trunk.

There are many large estates in the parish with fine specimen trees. Culham Court has an attractive lime in a field close to the river Thames (MRN 2762) and Park Place has several cedars, the largest of which is a cedar of Lebanon with a girth of 7.9m (MRN 1413) as well as an impressive 6.9m girth English oak standing alone in parkland (MRN 1388) which is probably over 500 years old.

The Ancient Yew Register has recorded three yew trees in the churchyard of the Parish Church of St Nicholas, but these have not yet been included in our survey.

MRN2781-9549
MRN1369-6168
MRN1413-5766
oak tree in field
MRN1369-5098
MRN2762-9554
MRN1388-5633
 

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Ruscombe

Ruscombe parish boundary
Survey statusComplete
Trees recorded124
English oak91%
Ash3%
Field maple2%

Ruscombe is a rural parish of two square miles. About one-eighth of the area is developed, merging with the expanded village of Twyford to fall within the Twyford and Ruscombe settlement boundary. The remaining seven-eighths, including the Conservation Area around the Church, is part of the Green Belt. The land has been used successively for horticulture, orchards, and a variety of arable crops. Until the First World War, willows were grown for an extensive osier industry. The pattern of fields and landholding is largely unchanged since the 1832 Enclosures. It is interspersed with a number of mixed woodlands and small distinctive ponds.

The largest and finest oak that has been surveyed (MRN 2278) is on the private Northbury Farm, but is clearly visible from the road. Nearly all the entry points to the Parish have boundary oaks beside the road.

Stanlake Park is an historic parkland site with some fine scattered veteran oaks (e.g. MRN 2462) and an avenue of limes on the old driveway to the house.

The churchyard yew (MRN 2277), next to the church porch, is recorded as a ‘champion’ [1], is on the Ancient Yew Register, is classified as ancient in the Ancient Tree Hunt and is also in the Tree Register of the British Isles (TROBI). A young yew in the churchyard was planted by the Conservation Foundation in 2000 to commemorate the Millennium.

There has not been much change over 10 years. We have only lost one veteran oak (to storm damage), which blew over into a field alongside Waltham Road. But there has been some succession planting of future veterans on the village green, including the young oak next to a stag-headed specimen (MRN 2273).

Reference:

  1. Champion Trees of Britain and Ireland: The Tree Register Handbook by Owen Johnson. Published by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (19 May 2011)
MRN2273-5847
MRN2277-7101
MRN2277-7102
MRN2462-5881
MRN2278-5096
 

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Shinfield

Shinfield parish boundary
Survey statusComplete
Trees recorded1306
English oak59%
Ash13%
Willow5%

More veteran trees have been recorded in Shinfield than in any other parish. Despite the overwhelming amount of new development, the trees are being retained and protected in accordance with our wishes and guidance which is now incorporated into the Shinfield Neighbourhood Plan.

Two sets of trees in particular define the parish. Eighteen pairs of Wellingtonias,Sequoiadendron giganteum, form a tall landmark avenue west of Basingstoke Road beside the crest of hills south of the Thames and Kennet valleys. These trees from North America were called 'Wellingtonias' to commemorate the success of the Duke of Wellington after his defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. They were planted locally when he was given the local estate at Stratfield Saye. We have recorded these Wellingtonias on our veteran tree database because they have girths of around 4.5 metres but they were only introduced into Great Britain in 1853 and so are less than 200 years old, whereas in their native California there are trees over 3000 year old. No-one knows, yet, how long they will eventually live or how tall they will grow in England compared with their longevity and gigantic size on the west coast of the USA. At present they stand out on the skyline and can be seen from Arborfield in the south, from Tilehurst and across the Thames valley to the north, and from the M4 west of Reading.

The second set of trees which define the parish are mentioned by the author Mary Russell Mitford in her articles published in the 1830s describing her walks around Three Mile Cross. It is within this established avenue on the hilltop in Spencers Wood that the Wellingtonias were planted. The four rows of oaks and Wellingtonias are a significant ecological habitat for insects and birds such as nuthatches and tree creepers.

The "Henry VIII" oak tree (MRN 432) is the most celebrated veteran oak in Shinfield. It was specifically protected during the development of new housing at Shinfield Park and featured in a Woodland Trust leaflet on protecting trees during development. The Ancient Tree Hunt have classified it as 'ancient' and with a girth of 6.3m, it was growing here on the western edge of Windsor forest when the Tudors took power at the end of the 15th century.

As well as maiden trees, Shinfield has many significant old coppiced trees, the most notable of which is  MRN 2199, an ash coppice in Pearmans Copse. It's difficult to age coppices, but with a girth of over six metres, this one must well over 600 years old.

Many veteran willows have been recorded along the banks of ditches and streams. Many have been pollarded, like MRN 7194 in Langley Mead, or coppiced, indicating historic use of the young shoots. Alder too grows well in damp land and several, including MRN 4968, have been recorded along the banks of the river Loddon.

Other major veteran oak, ash and willow trees survive along ancient routes leading south across the parish toward the River Loddon and the Foudry Brook. The trees now border footpaths, lanes and the two main roads leading south from Reading, Shinfield Road and Basingstoke Road. They contribute greatly to the leafy appearance of existing and new residential areas.

The current parish walks leaflets discuss the natural environment and will be reprinted to include more references to prominent trees. We also plan to produce tree trails across all areas of the parish showing special trees of importance to the residential areas.

MRN432-5630
MRN432-5628
MRN432-10146
MRN2199-2310
MRN7194-10621
MRN4968-5282
 

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Sonning

Sonning parish boundary
Survey statusTo be verified
Trees recorded113
English oak28%
Horse chestnut24%
Common lime16%

Sonning is one of the oldest settlements in the Borough. It is located at the southern end of the Chilterns chalk escarpment, on the south bank of the River Thames which forms the long north-east border of the parish. The village is situated on a gentle slope towards the river, with some parts of the core area sited on a low plateau of river gravels. Most of the veteran trees surveyed are around the village, in the Reading Bluecoat School grounds and the area of woodland called the Dell alongside the river. Many fine veteran trees are in private gardens.

There are a couple of splendid oaks, MRN 6658 and MRN 6659, in the open ground of the Berkshire County sports field and several along roadsides, including MRN 3093, on the Old Bath Road.

Apart from oaks, the species which predominate in the parish are ash, beech, horse chestnut and yew. Sonning boasts some good examples of veteran limes (MRN 6680 and MRN6682) and a Cedar of Lebanon (MRN 6672).

MRN6658-8300
MRN6659-8299
MRN3093-8166
 

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Swallowfield

Swallowfield parish boundary
Survey statusHardly started
Trees recorded238
English oak78%
Horse chestnut4%
Willow4%

The parish of Swallowfield, which now includes the villages of Riseley and Farley Hill, appeared in the Domesday Book and the parish has for centuries been an area of agricultural and rural life. Some large private estates have developed, the most notable of which is Swallowfield Park. John Evelyn, the diarist and tree expert, visited the garden of Swallowfield Park in the late 17th  century and admired 'walks and groves of elms, limes, oaks and other trees'.

Within the Park and along its boundaries we have recorded over 200 trees. Most of these are English oaks but there are some large old alders and willows along the banks of the Blackwater and Loddon rivers, for example, the 7m girth crack willow (MRN 4953). A notable tree is the large common yew by the porch of All Saints Church (MRN 2148), recorded in the Ancient Yew Group's gazeteer. Charles Kingsley’s opinion in 1860 was that the tree might be more ancient than the church, but this is unlikely as the church is thirteenth century and the surveyor in 2011 thought it a much younger tree. Also notable is a very large 6.9m girth black poplar hybrid (MRN 5211) in the field close to the entrance to the park.

We have not yet been able to survey much of the parish apart from the Park, but we know there are numerous splendid veteran trees, particularly English oaks growing as hedge trees in field hedgerows and specimen trees in parkland areas.

MRN5211-9535
MRN4953-5287
MRN2148-2249
 

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Twyford

Twyford parish boundary
Survey statusComplete
Trees recorded35
English oak63%
Ash11%
Horse chestnut11%

The parish of Twyford (which means 'two fords') is on an ancient east-west routeway. It is a well developed parish with very little open countryside. The main features are the River Loddon, with its feeder stream the Broadwater, and the gravel pits. These watercourses support a range of trees. Until the housing estates were built during the 1960s and 1970s there were fields to the south of the parish which contained some fine old oaks. Fortunately many of these survive today amongst the houses, and have been surveyed for the database, including MRN 3527 and MRN 3524. Others are in an area of retained woodland close to the south-east parish boundary, the largest of which (MRN 4611) has a girth of 4.7m and so is probably over 250 years old.

Veteran trees can also be found alongside the main railway line including two oaks (MRN 3520 and MRN 4604) inside a woodland belt which may have been planted in the mid eighteenth century and a multi-stem ash (MRN 3522).

Historically, there was an old silk mill on the Loddon at Twyford, and there is a living reminder of that old industry with a distinctive old mulberry (MRN 7713) within the grounds of the Piggott School.

The churchyard of St Mary's has three large horse chestnuts and a 4.4m girth sycamore (MRN 3518).

Some fine black poplar hybrids are living on the flood plain of the Loddon near the A4. During the last decade, the parish has been fortunate to acquire two disease-resistant elm saplings, one in Stanlake Meadow and the other in a park off Malvern Way. These were planted by WDVTA Tree Wardens and are both doing well.

MRN3518-3456
MRN3527-3449
MRN3524-3452
 

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Wargrave

Wargrave parish boundary
Survey statusWell underway
Trees recorded516
English oak28%
Ash11%
Wellingtonia11%

The parish lies at the meeting point of the old Windsor Forest on London clay soils and the Chiltern beech woods on chalk. The entire parish would have been wooded initially: the name derives from 'Weirgrove' - 'weir' (eel trap) and 'grove' (thicket). Now most of the lower land has been cleared for farming. The River Thames forms the western boundary of the parish, with willow, ash, poplar and alder growing on the low lying marshy area. To the east of the parish on higher ground, the chalk is overlaid by London clay and Reading beds, a mixture of clay, sands and flint. Oaks prefer the clay soils but are found throughout the parish. Beeches prefer chalk but there are only four veteran common beeches and eight copper beech in the parish. Ash, sycamore and limes are widespread. Several small streams begin on the clay on Bowsey Hill to the east, running west and disappearing into the chalk in narrow dry valleys.

Compared to some other parishes, there has been no threat from large scale housing or road development in the last 10 years.

The parish can be divided into four distinct areas, woodland, farmland, marsh and private gardens.

  1. Woodland is to the east, on the higher ground less suited for farming, privately owned, not particularly managed, and mostly accessible to the public. There are few veteran trees, and most of those are found along boundaries and paths, mostly ash, oak and coppiced hazel and ash.
  2. Farmland trees have only survived along boundaries and footpaths, some as hedge trees, mostly oak and ash, and crack willow along some ditches. Fortunately, the largest landowner has been preserving hedge trees for many years and has planted younger specimens in new hedges. Another landowner has planted lines of trees along the Mumbery Hill field boundaries and the A321 to replace hedges grubbed out in the 1960s.
  3. On Wargrave Marsh the veteran trees are mostly ash and willow.
  4. In private gardens unusual specimen trees have been planted and some have survived the selling off of large gardens for housing, as in Bayliss Road. These veterans include a tulip tree, black and white mulberry trees, an oriental plane (MRN 1919), catalpa, smooth Arizona cypress, Lucombe oak, Wellingtonia, silver maple, sweet chestnut, red horse chestnut and Western red cedar.

At Yeldall Manor there is a Wellingtonia avenue of 45 trees, and although on private land the avenue can be seen from Blakes Lane. The largest tree in Wargrave (MRN 5845) is in the garden of the Old Vicarage. This is one of the largest sweet chestnuts in the country with a 10.4m girth. Dating the tree is difficult, but it may be 950 years old which would mean it started growing at the time of the Norman Conquest. It is certainly over 800 years old so it was growing in the 13th century. On another piece of private land, near the river Loddon, there is a 7m crack willow (MRN 1558).

Distinctive trees with public access are a 6.5m coppiced ash (MRN 4214) on a footpath between Highgrove Farm and Endalls Farm, a 6.1m Wellingtonia (MRN 5833), a Lucombe oak (MRN 5834) in Bayliss Road and another Lucombe oak (MRN 1642) near the sewage farm.

The oaks on field boundaries visible to the public are the most notable. Examples include those along Milley Lane towards Waltham St. Lawrence (e.g. MRN 4286), and those on Highfield Road (MRN 2999MRN 2991 and their neighbours).

Measuring the veteran trees has been a valuable and fascinating voyage of discovery, has thrown up the odd surprise and has enabled us to get to know our area much better.

MRN5833-8510
MRN5834-6705
MRN5845-6719 10m sweet chestnut
MRN4286-4319 Milley Lane
MRN1642-2908: Lucombe oak
MRN1919-10665: Oriental plane
MRN4214-4279
 

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Winnersh

winnersh parish boundary
Survey statusWell underway
Trees recorded324
English oak63%
Ash12%
Field maple5%

The name Winnersh has been in use since the 12th Century and is believed to be derived from 'Winn' (meadows) and 'erch' (stubble fields). Until the 20th century the population was very small and centred on a few small villages. Sindlesham Mill on the river Loddon is marked on Rocque’s 1761 Berkshire map and exists today as part of a public house with a hump-backed bridge over the mill stream and mill stones on display outside the building. Loddon Bridge was an entrance to Windsor Forest in the 1300s and a tollgate in 1759.

With the building of the North Wokingham Distributor Road and new housing very little remains of the fields of Winnersh, but Wokingham Borough Council has done a great deal to protect the hedgerows and trees within them.

Alas, there are very few large trees in Winnersh that could be dated back to Windsor Forest. A leaflet entitled Bearwood Recreation Ground Tree Walk, published by WDVTA, describes ten trees on a walk that begins and ends at the Winnersh Community Centre car park. The trees include a coppiced sweet chestnut, a magnificent oak and felled beech trees which are now a habitat for fungi, possibly stag beetles and other wood decomposers. The walk includes two of the largest trees in the parish, an English oak (MRN 5297) which could be 350 years old and a multi-stem sweet chestnut (MRN 5578) with a girth of 8.3m.

A favourite tree is the one saved by the local community (MRN 6105) in Watmore Lane. A road entrance would have gone right through the 6m English oak which was probably over 400 years old but the planners agreed to move the entrance southward to Locksley Gardens so the tree and its roots would not be disturbed.

Two magnificent Atlas cedars can be seen in the churchyard of St. Catherine’s church on Bearwood Road. Both are on the Tree Register of the British Isles (TROBI). MRN 7549 is a county champion with a girth of 7.9m near ground level when measured in 2007. Many of its branches have crossed and fused together. The second cedar (MRN 7558) is also a county champion, whose girth was 5.5m at 1m when measured in 2007. Four veteran incense cedars grow at the corners of the memorial to the Walter family of Bearwood (MRN 7550MRN 7553).

The Parish has two orchards. One next is to the garden centre on the B3270/A329 whose origins are unknown and in the last few years a new orchard has been planted in Winnersh Meadows.

MRN5297-5793
MRN5297-5796
MRN6105-11408
MRN7549-9919
MRN5578-6268
 

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Wokingham Town

Wokingham town parish boundary
Survey statusComplete
Trees recorded1275
English oak58%
Sweet chestnut8%
Common lime4%

Wokingham was created as a market town in the 13th century in the Windsor Forest. It has a long agricultural and industrial history, with several large estates around the outskirts. In spite of considerable population expansion it still retains something of its rural character and treescape.

The survey of veteran trees started in Wokingham Town in 2005 and the first trees recorded were splendid English oaks in St Paul's churchyard (MRN 177) and Joel Park.

Each year a few new veteran trees are found but also some recorded trees are lost from natural decay, felling or development. We update our records regularly.

Wokingham is very fortunate to have a legacy of a wide variety of tree species and a high density of trees for an urban area. Especially noteworthy are the tree-lined roads into the town. Milton Road and Reading Road have oaks with a girth of over 5m (MRN 55 and MRN 177 respectively). Barkham Road and Finchampstead Road both have stretches where they are oak-lined with trees of 3 to 4.5m in girth. Chestnut Avenue has both oaks and (not surprisingly) sweet chestnuts. These tree-lined roads are a special feature of the town and should be protected as much as possible.

Within most of the built-up areas there are remnants of hedge and farmland trees, mostly oaks and some ash. Along some footpaths and old lanes there are hawthorn, hazel, holly, field maple and cherry plum.

In the town centre we have recorded two significant trees which were originally planted in the gardens of large houses. One is a black mulberry (MRN 2039) which is recorded as a county champion for its girth in the Tree Register of the British Isles (TROBI). This was unfortunately felled in 2015 but is now re-sprouting. The other is an oriental plane (MRN 76), visible from Waitrose car park, recorded as a ‘champion’ [1], and also as a TROBI county champion for girth and height.

There are several old estates with notable trees, such as St Anne’s Manor, Luckley House School and Cantley Park. The town has many parks with attractive rows and specimen trees including Langborough Recreation ground which is edged with limes, the largest of which is MRN 600, Woosehill Riverside Walk has the Emm Brook running through it with several large pollarded crack willows such as MRN 265 and Joel Park has an avenue of red oaks and another of English oaks, both planted to celebrate the silver jubilee of King George V.

Several areas of woodland remain in the town, including Keephatch Wood with a mix of tree species including a coastal redwood (MRN 1468), Holt Copse with many oaks, and Fox Hill woods with over 40 large sweet chestnuts most of which were coppiced in the past.

On land that was once agricultural, there remain a number of old lanes, public footpaths and a few bridleways such as Doles Lane. Along these grow hedges of hawthorn, hazel, holly, field maple and cherry plum, as well as substantial hedge trees, mostly of oak or ash. Some farmland remains on the outskirts of the town and here there are isolated oaks and old field hedges with hedge trees. As and when development is planned for any of these remaining green areas, we press for the retention of the trees.

The survey was completed in 2011 and in the following year a Report on Trees in Wokingham Town was published with the financial backing and support of the Wokingham Society and Wokingham Borough Council.

More details about the town’s trees can be found in the 2012 report.

Reference:

  1. Champion Trees of Britain and Ireland: The Tree Register Handbook by Owen Johnson   Published by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (19 May 2011)
Oriental plane in winter
MRN76-5257: Waitrose Oriental Plane
Lime in winter
MRN600-802: Lime in Langborough Recreation Ground
 

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Wokingham Without

Wokingham Without parish boundary
Survey statusWell underway
Trees recorded257
English oak80%
Beech5%
Common lime4%

The parish is so named because it lies outside the boundary of Wokingham Town. It was created in 1894 when the ancient parish of Wokingham was divided unequally into two. Wokingham Without was the greater, rural part and included Bigshotte Rayles, one of the ancient administrative divisions, or Walkes, of Windsor Forest. The home of the Keeper of Bigshotte Rayles was Bigshotte Lodge, which has since become the site of Ravenswood, a village for disabled people which contains some remarkable veteran trees.

The parish is now defined by two railway lines, on the north and the west, by the London to Silchester Roman Road known as the Devil’s Highway on the south, and by the Old Wokingham Road to Crowthorne on the east. The busy modern route of Nine Mile Ride bisects the parish. This is an acid heath area of pine interspersed with birch, and in nearby Honey Hill some broom-dashers lived and worked by making and selling besoms from birches from Nine Mile Ride.

There are several hamlets in the parish, namely, Chapel Green with the St.Lucas Hospital (a listed building), Holme Green and Gardeners Green. In parts, the semi-rural character of the area has been retained with some good oak trees, but birch grow here and in the early twentieth century plantations of Scots pine were created by Lord Wiltshire for timber such as pit-props.

Wokingham Without's trees include stands of planted pine managed by The Forestry Commission in Bramshill Forest. There is a large area of modern housing to the south but in parts the semi-rural character of the area has been retained, including some good veteran English oaks. Examples of these are in the parkland once belonging to the former Luckley House; MRN 7377 has a girth of 6.6m and may be close to 500 years old. Another, MRN 7365, is 5.2m girth and over 300 years of age. There are a number of veteran English oaks including two important pollarded examples at Ravenswood Village ( MRN 1134 and MRN 1136). The former has a girth of 6.3m and is recorded as 'ancient' by the Ancient Tree Hunt. As it is growing in a parkland setting it was probably planted in the mid-Tudor period around the 1530s. The latter is 5.8m in girth and may well have been planted in the mid-seventeenth century.

Other distinctive veteran trees at Ravenswod include two veteran sweet chestnuts (MRN 1144 and MRN 1145) . The latter is 6.6m in girth probably over 350 years old and also recorded as an 'ancient' tree by the Ancient Tree Hunt. Finally there is one less common veteran, a purple sycamore (MRN 1142).

Elsewhere, on the edge of a three square-mile block of heath and bog around Heath Pool is a multi-stem sweet chestnut (MRN 2804) with a girth of 4.4m.

Trees in the Edgecumbe Park estate were covered by a Tree Preservation Order prior to development so many trees were retained. Most are pine but they include a red oak in Heathermount Drive (MRN 1993).

There are also significant trees at Bigshotte Park (e.g. MRN 5120) and Oaklands Lane. The Pinewood Centre (accessed from Old Wokingham Road) has some mixed woodland, but still retains some stands of those pinewoods which were the reason for the sanatorium being sited here by the Brompton Hospital at the beginning of the nineteenth century and its old orchard has recently been planted as a new community orchard.

MRN1144-1075
MRN1134-1063
MRN5120-5454
MRN1145-1074
 

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Woodley

Woodley parish boundary
Survey statusWell underway
Trees recorded186
English oak42%
Ash16%
Willow9%

Eighteenth century maps of the area show a rural landscape with just a scattering of houses. Bulmarsh Heath covered a large part of what is now Woodley, along with Hadleigh Heath and Colemans Moor. There has been a lot of building since then but Woodley still has some unexpected wild corners.

There are pockets of ancient woodland at Aldermoors and Sandford Mill Copse, including the unusually shaped oak MRN 7445. Part of the arboretum planted in the grounds of Woodley Lodge in Victorian times can still be found at High Wood and round South Lake, including two common beeches MRN 7743 and MRN 1579.

Currently there are a substantial number of trees in the area just too small or too young to go on the database. Many of them are highly visible roadside trees in Loddon Bridge Road, Butts Hill Road, Crockhamwell Road and Colemansmoor Road (MRN 7853). There are 'nearly veterans' along Waingels Road and Western Avenue, as well as a group on Beechwood Avenue, the trees around the industrial area by the Just Tiles roundabout and the limes outside the Church. Let's hope these all survive to become veterans in the next decade or two.

As well as the English oaks, we have also recorded a number of ash, alders, willows and redwoods.

In the autumn the leaves on 30 narrow leaved ash trees planted beside Mohawk Way turn to maroon with golden undertones. The trees are big enough now to make a good show but as they grow it will only get better. This was an inspired choice which will give pleasure to local residents for decades to come.

MRN7445-English-Oak
MRN7853-oak
MRN1579-beech
MRN1579-10381: beech
Narrow-leaved ash, Mohawk Way
MRN 7743: Beech
 

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