Wealden Ancient Tree Project


An ancient tree is one that makes you say wow!

Do you live in or near Wealden District? The Wealden Ancient Tree Project is looking for Volunteer Recorders to record and photograph fascinating old trees in the Wealden area. If you have no previous experience, it doesn’t matter, enthusiasm is all you will need! If you have knowledge and expertise, that will be valuable. Training will take place at wonderful ancient tree sites and surveys can then be undertaken individually or in groups on organised days.

Do you have ancient trees on your land? Would you like them surveyed? Would you like advice on their management? Your trees will not be publicised unless you want them to be.

Ancient trees are living relics of incredible age that inspire feelings of awe and mystery. They also support wildlife that cannot live anywhere else. Over the centuries, they have motivated artists, writers, poets and scientists and are mentioned in sacred texts.

Diagram to show the feature characteristics of a veteran tree
click to enlarge.

Ancient trees are full of holes and dead and rotting wood. As the years go by they provide the perfect homes for thousands of species of plants, animals and fungi, including many rare and threatened species. Many ancient trees are vulnerable or unappreciated – often suffering from neglect or lack of awareness of their great importance to our heritage and wildlife.

Wealden Ancient Tree Project aims to:

  • Locate, record and map the majority of the ancient trees in Wealden District
  • Provide management and conservation advice regarding ancient trees

A tree should be recorded if it is over the size given below for its species or if it has at least three separate attributes associated with ancient trees: large girth, bark loss, major deadwood, rot, cavities, decay holes, trunk hollows and fungi.

If you measure your fingertip to fingertip ‘hug’ (usually around 150cm for an adult) you can then measure a tree even if you don’t have a tape measure!

Ancient tree approximate expected measurements
Tree species Girth at 1.5m Hugs
hawthorn, rowan, birch, field maple 150 cm 1
cherry, holly, hazel, hornbeam 230 cm 11/2
ash, beech, Scot’s pine, alder, willow, yew 300 cm 2
oak, sycamore, lime, horse chestnut, sweet chestnut, elm, poplar, other pines and exotics 450 cm 3

If you are interested in being a volunteer recorder, attending a training day, have information about an ancient tree, or would like a survey carried out on your land, please contact Ali Wright via email or post:

Ali Wright, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Woods Mill, Henfield, West Sussex, BN5 9SD

The Wealden Ancient Tree Project is funded by Heritage Lottery Awards for All, Wealden District Council Community Grants Programme, Sussex Wildlife Trust and Sussex Biodiversity Partnership.


The Wealden project is in partnership with the Woodland Trust’s national Ancient Tree Hunt where records can be added to the interactive ancient tree map. But please contact Ali Wright to register that you are helping with the project and to receive special Sussex survey forms. Come to a training day if you can.

Ancient tree management

Ancient trees are a precious part of our heritage that need care and attention in order to survive into the future. The main reasons for managing ancient trees today are to:

  • protect them from the current threats
  • prevent an ancient tree from collapsing prematurely
  • safeguard the genetic resource
  • provide continuity of habitats for wildlife
  • keep individual trees alive for as long as possible, to enable a new generation to replace the older ones
  • maintain traditional practises and continuity within landscapes
  • perpetuate aesthetic values, such as characteristic landscape features
  • secure the future of historic or landmark trees
  • fulfil safety requirements

The Woodland Trust and the Ancient Tree Forum have produced a range of guidance notes for those who care for ancient trees called Ancient Tree Guides.

The Veteran Trees Initiative has also produced a range of excellent publications aimed at those involved in the management of ancient trees, including the excellent handbook Veteran Trees – a guide to good management which outlines best practice.

Other useful links:

Educational resources:

Tree identification