Public asked to help secure the future of our Very Important Trees

The enchanting and magnificent Dark Hedges near Ballymoney and a modest mulberry in Bangor are just some of the trees highlighted in the Woodland Trust’s UK-wide V.I.Trees campaign.

Together with Country Living magazine, the Trust is calling for politicians to back the production of a national register of the country’s most treasured trees, and has started by compiling a list of 40 splendid specimens.

Oak 1 at Belvoir Park Forest is estimated to be over 500 years old.  Photo taken by Gregor Fulton.

Oak 1 at Belvoir Park Forest is estimated to be over 500 years old. Photo taken by Gregor Fulton.

The aim is to identify, celebrate and safeguard these natural living monuments.

Jill Butler, ancient tree specialist for the Woodland Trust, says: “Northern Ireland has its share of ancient and culturally important trees, with over 5,000 registered on the Trust’s Ancient Tree Hunt website. And I’m quite certain that, just like elsewhere in the UK, there are many more that we simply don’t know of.

“Our oldest trees have seen centuries come and go, witnessed historic events and are home to many species of wildlife, some rare and vulnerable. These natural living monuments are the equivalent of listed buildings, yet have no automatic form of protection.

“A national register in each country of the UK would locate and list these trees, and help owners recognise their importance. It would be an important step in securing their future. The hope is that developers would consult the register when preparing planning applications.”

The 40 revered trees – handpicked because of their age, landscape value or historical association – are just a sample representing thousands of gems throughout the UK.

Northern Ireland’s arboreal representatives include the Dark Hedges – a spectacular avenue of beech trees near Ballymoney, which featured in TV series Game of Thrones; the infamous Crom Yews of Fermanagh; oaks at Boom Hall Estate in Londonderry; and one elegant mulberry at Castle Park in Bangor. Also standing up and ready to be counted are the magnificent oaks at Belvoir Park Forest in Belfast. One oak – gnarled, hollow and alive with insects and fungi – is over 500 years old and is thought to be the oldest tree in Northern Ireland.

Find out more about the V.I. Trees campaign and ask Environment Minister Mark H Durkan to support a register of Northern Ireland’s remarkable trees at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/vitrees

Oak 2 at Belvoir Park Forest is over 300 years old.  Photo taken by Edward Parker.

Oak 2 at Belvoir Park Forest is over 300 years old. Photo taken by Edward Parker.

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