Tree project preserves a link to the past
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
SEEDS from some of the oldest trees in County Durham have been cultivated and the resulting saplings planted in Teesdale.
The seedlings, from veteran trees such as a mother oak at Winston and a UK champion rowan from Cotherstone, were planted in hedgerows at Cross Lanes Organic Farmshop thanks to a grant from Durham County Council.
The seeds were collected and propagated by Teesdale Heritage Trees, at its base in Staindrop.
Rodger Lowe, of Teesdale Heritage Trees, said the aim of the project was to conserve the genetic diversity of veteran trees in the north east by propagating seedlings from important specimen tress.
He said: “I have spent ten years documenting the veteran trees of Country Durham and now wish to propagate a new generation of future giants.
“Fortunately, in a twist of history of not being invaded for 1,000 years the UK holds a significant population of veteran trees.
“Many of these trees are on old agricultural estates which have been in the same family for many generations with land use changing only very recently.”
He added: “These trees are a living link to the past and some may have been seedlings at the time of the Great Fire of London.
“They have withstood the ravages of time, weather, disease, pests and the rise of engineering, yet survive.
“They are irreplaceable and very few trees survive from the 18th century to take their place.”
The latest trees to be planted at Cross Lanes to celebrate National Tree Week also included crab apple which were grown from the seeds of a UK champion at Croxdale.
Of the oak from Winston which features a massive girth of 6.7metres, Mr Lowe said: “The oak tree is so big it has featured on the Ordnance Survey maps since 1854 – a rare feat.”
Sadly, the champion rowan from Cotherstone has since blown down.
However, its legacy will live on thanks to the seedlings cultivated by Mr Lowe and his veteran tree conservation programme.