Public invited to nominate favourite trees in new conservation project

Tree enthusiasts across the region are being invited to nominate trees of special significance or sentimental value to be listed on a new woodland register as part of a brand-new conservation project which has launched at Kirkley Hall in Northumberland.

Designed to identify, conserve and protect our region’s ancient and significant trees, the National Lottery funded Northumbria Veteran Tree Project aims to map ancient and notable trees across the old Northumbria regions of Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.
The project is the result of an innovative partnership between Northumberland College and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) through a £65,000 grant made possible by National Lottery players. Other partners helping to promote the project include the Ancient Tree Forum, Northumberland National Park Authority, the Arboricultural Association The Woodland Trust and the local authorities for Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

Arboriculture course leader at Northumberland College, Nick Johnson, has been the driving force behind the project since its inception. He said: “We are famously a nation that celebrates trees, a fact born out in the names of our towns and our public houses. Indeed, it has only recently been discovered that England boasts more Oak trees between the age of 400-600 years of age than the whole of Europe put together! “I had seen veteran tree projects being conducted by various organisations across the country but Northumberland was never represented. “We live in one of the least charted areas in the UK in tree terms yet have one of the most diverse and undisputedly resilient range of species to be found anywhere in the country. From our native Junipers and the William Cleugh pines, to those magnificent trees planted on our country estates, in our cities and in our churchyards across the region, we have much to celebrate and applaud which is why we have established the Northumbria Veteran Tree Project.

“We want members of the public to get out and about, enjoy our trees, tell their stories and help to put them on the map to protect and conserve them for future generations to enjoy.”

Each nominated tree will be recorded by the project team of dedicated volunteers who will assess the tree to see if it meets the criteria for ancient and notable status. The details will then be added to an online database and celebrated in the project’s digital gallery through images and stories.

The project was launched at an official tree planting ceremony at Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall campus on Friday 31 August which was widely attended by staff, stakeholders and partners.

Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, people in Northumbria have a unique opportunity to put the ancient and significant trees they love quite literally on the map and celebrate their stories and heritage. As well as benefitting an integral element of our landscapes, this project will also revive traditional woodland skills and reignite love for our region’s trees.”

The project team will be headquartered at the new Woodland Centre which will open soon at Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall campus. The Centre, which is being made possible through a £88,000 grant provided by the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) and administered by the Rural Payments Agency, will provide a new, state-of-the-art hub for local schools and not-for-profit organisations to learn more about the natural environment and partake in traditional woodland crafts and activities hosted by the College.

Northumberland College is a specialist provider of further and higher education services to students aged 16 and over, delivering a range of academic and vocational courses and apprenticeships to young people living across the county.