Far away from the hustle and bustle of London and less than 5 miles from our Norfolk office lies Lower Wood, Ashwellthorpe. This stunning, ancient woodland plays host to a plethora of plants, trees and wildlife and is a fabulous place to take a walk and unwind. If you're a keen cyclist, there is also a good network of rides to explore as the wood covers a generous 37 hectares (approx. 93 acres) of unspoilt beauty. Whilst beautiful all year round, the wood is exceptional in springtime with abundant carpets of bluebells, wood anemones and ransoms.
The English oak is probably Britain's best known and most well-loved of all our native trees, but how much do you know about it? If the answer is "not much", then have a brief read to find out more about one of our finest trees.
Its common name is of course the English oak, or pedunculate oak but its scientific name is Quercus robur (meaning strength). The oak tree belongs to the Fagaceae family, which is a family of flowering plants that includes beeches as well as oaks and comprises eight genera with around 927 species.
As the summer months approach and we ponder over what additions to make to our gardens as they begin to come to life again, some of you may be considering adding a treehouse for the kids (or even yourselves!) to your garden. If the kids have been nagging you to build them one or asked if they can build one for themselves, it can be a rewarding experience to add such an idyllic structure to your garden.
If you're fortunate to have a reasonably mature tree that can support your new dream structure, here are a few things you'll need to know.
Well, this is a question that we may commonly ask ourselves. Could we live without trees? As we move into an age of huge population growth, cities expanding at a mammoth rate and as consumers, we are putting a huge strain on the world as we know it.
Before we move into the more scientific facts, it is important to know why trees are planted and well maintained in cities and towns all over the world, yes they turn carbon dioxide into oxygen blah blah blah but what about the aesthetic value they hold? Ever walked into a really fancy neighbourhood and thought “These houses must be worth a fair bit”, I think we all have. Nine times out of ten, these upmarket areas will have a vast selection of established native and exotic trees that are well maintained. On the other end of the scale, say a very hard concrete cityscape, trees are planted on purpose to provide shade, shelter, reduce noise pollution and to improve peoples mental health ( Yes this is a proven fact). As well as trees being a vital resource for food, fuel and construction, sometimes it is overlooked that they provide a huge value to humans and animals on earth.
A friend sent me this picture today of something he came across whilst walking his dog today in Swanley, Kent.
He was cutting through the woods adjacent to Swanley Park and couldn't believe his eyes when he came across this georgeous old oak tree with a shopping trolley in it.
From the picture, the oak tree looks like it's a few hundred years old and I'm guessing that this is probably its first encounter with a shopping trolley.
One thing I hate about museums is that hot, stuffy feeling you get halfway into the tour, looking through panes of glass, brushing shoulders with hundreds if not thousands of people all trying to catch a glimpse of whatever may be in that room. The National Arboretum at Westonbirt may not officially be a museum but, in my opinion, it has exhibits that easily rival the wonders of The British Museum and The Natural History Museum, minus the crowds.
European Tree of the Year Competition
By Marcin Floryan - Own work, CC BY 2.5, Link
An oak tree located in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire which is thought to be around 1,000 years old has recently missed out on winning the title of the best tree in Europe.
The "Robin Hood Major Oak" was competing against 13 other trees in a public vote on the tree of the year website.
It had previously won England's first "Tree of the Year" competition in November but was beaten to victory by a tree in Estonia.
Nottinghamshire County Council said it was pleased the competition gave the Major Oak such a high profile.
Is this the oldest tree in the UK and Europe?
According to tree experts who have done dendrochronology (ring dating) and DNA analysis on it, this amazing yew tree (Latin name: taxus baccata) is thought to date back to around 3000 BC. This means it's an astonishing 5000 years old if this estimate is accurate.
Putting this into perspective, it would mean that it started growing around 500 years prior to the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza and was already a small sapling when construction was thought to have begun on Stonehenge.
Not many people are aware that the burning of wood on your fire doesn't generate any more greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) than if it were to simply rot away on the ground in the woods.
It is therefore far more environmentally sustainable than burning fossil fuels such as coal or gas.
A real fire is an excellent choice if you're fortunate enough to have a wood burner or open fire in your home and this guide is intended to give you a rough idea of what to put on/ in it.
Some people speculate that talking to our plants and trees is beneficial for them. Whether or not that's the case, here's a slightly different take on trees and plants communicating with each other.
Scientists are beginning to discover that plants are in some ways similar to us in that they “talk” to each other by releasing pheromones into the air.
Here's an interesting article about the benefits of having trees around us in our everyday lives. This is a California based organisation that cites what they see as the top 22 reasons to take care of and cherish the plants and trees that we live with. It's a sad fact that as major cities increase in size, the number and density of plants and trees around us is on the decline. Have a read and see what you think
By Diliff - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
If you get the chance, check out the prehistoric trees outside London's Natural History Museum. Whilst not everyone's idea of a fun day out, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and found the Ginkgo gardneri particularly interesting.
Winter tree care - How to look after them in winter
The storms, ice and rapid temperature fluctuations, above and below zero, are characteristic of winter weather and it takes its toll on trees across the UK. Even for species native to colder regions, this can be a stressful time. This is particularly true for the exposed and isolated trees of the residential landscape. However, some of this stress is unavoidable. The average tree owner has little control over the climate but there are things that you can do to minimize the damage caused by the stresses of the winter months.
Cold stresses take a number of forms. The first is the effect on mature trees of a rapid change between daytime heat and nighttime freezing. These temperature variations can lead to stresses inside the tree between the outer bark and inner wood leading to cracks called frost cracking (this is the side receiving the most winter sunlight). There isn't much that can be done to prevent frost cracking.