Veteran oak trees are a characteristic feature of Suffolk’s landscape, some of which are thought to be over 500 years old.
Many of the veteran oaks found on The Suffolk Coast today were once regularly pollarded or cut for timber or fuel. Large numbers of these magnificent trees are rarely seen these days, but they can be found in abundance at Staverton Park, near Butley and Trust reserve Captain’s Wood in Sudbourne. When Suffolk Wildlife Trust
purchased Captain’s Wood it meant that a substantial part of the remaining woodland could be protected. Fields previously ploughed were restored to acid grassland and heath. Rhododendron which had been smothering the veteran oak pollards was cleared. This habitat management has allowed bluebells, honeysuckle and other native woodland species to thrive. Most other veteran oaks on The Suffolk Coast can be found standing alone on farmland, parks, gardens and village greens. Fine examples of these ancient trees can be seen at Newbourne Springs and Foxburrow Farm near Woodbridge.
Several factors pose a threat to veteran oak trees. These include adverse weather conditions such as drought or high winds, pollution, intensive agricultural, development and mismanagement such as removing dead wood or ploughing too close to the root system. Individual veteran trees only receive specific protection by law if they are the subject of a Tree Preservation Order or are located in a Conservation Area. They may also be legally protected if they are on a designated nature conservation site or if they support a protected species such as roosting bats. For more information on ancient trees in the UK please visit the Ancient Tree Forum website.
For more information on Captains Wood, Newbourne Springs and Foxburrow farm please visit www.suffolkwildifetrust.org
These spectacular specimens are a reminder of the wild woodland that covered Britain in ancient times. Veteran oaks are treasured both for their fantastic wildlife value and cultural importance. The great age, size and condition of veteran oaks means they are unique habitats which can be considered complete ecosystems in themselves. Three to four hundred invertebrate species rely on their decaying wood to lay eggs and feed larvae, one important example being the rare Cardinal click beetle. Veteran oaks are also vital for many species of plants, mammals and birds such as barn owls which nest in their hollow trunks. They also sustain specialised communities of lichen, moss and fungi such as the rare Oak polypore.