"Secrets Of The Dead Wood: Ancient Oaks Hold Key To New Life"

"In Richmond Park, decaying logs and mangled old branches are no longer cleared away but valued as habitats for birds and insects"

"Oaks are the elders of London’s Richmond Park. Some of them are 800 years old and have slumped, bulged and grown cavernous with age. By the time King Charles I visited in 1625 and turned a collection of medieval farms into the royal park we have today, they would have already been veteran trees. A disused medieval track is visible from the way the trees lean into a gentle gully, now grassed over. Richmond Park is something of an open-air museum, and among its most precious exhibits is its dead wood.

Dead wood has many guises and starts forming on the inside of healthy standing trees. As they age, it expands, creating a rich habitat that we still know little about. “How many jobs involve managing assets that are 700 or 800 years old?” says Simon Richards, manager of the park. “You’re planting trees thinking, what’s that tree going to be like in 400 years’ time? That’s a real joy of the job – we’re just a footnote in history.”

England has more ancient oaks than all other European countries put together. This is largely thanks to the long-held obsession of royals and the aristocracy with creating medieval parks to hunt deer, as venison was considered a “noble” meat. Within these landscapes, oaks had space to flourish, and thanks to careful management, Richmond is one of the best places to see them."

Phoebe Weston reports for the Guardian May 5, 2021.

Source: Guardian, 05/06/2021