Yesterday, the Ancient Tree Forum went to Wimpole, which is a 2,000+ acre estate owned by the National Trust, just south west of Cambridge, UK. Led by the head forester of the site, the day took us around a great portion of the estate, where we were shown not only old trees and their importance for saproxylic invertebrates (including many rare coleoptera and diptera), but also an ash woodland with coppice regeneration being battered by ash dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) and some woodland-borne elms enduring the devastating Dutch elm disease (Ophiostoma novo-ulmi).
Whilst the day itself began mid-morning, I – as usual – arrived very early, in order to explore. My aim was, principally, to find fungi, and I was certainly not let down in this regard, as you will see in the collection of images at the end of this post! More broadly, walking through the fields being grazed by both cattle and sheep, complete with many mature, veteran, moribund, and dead trees, in which some were evidently grazed around and others not, was a real treat. Such landscapes possess character orders of magnitude greater than standard park landscapes, which are basically lacking the grazing aspect that is culturally very important in the UK. Granted, not all parks can facilitate grazing, as people do lust for their formal parks, and letting grazing ungulates into specimen gardens is a great way to ruin the specimens (it’d be quite bizarre to see cattle roam across Kew Gardens), but those formalised gardens still lack the romantic feel of a proper English park.
During the guided tour itself, catching up with friends and acquaintances, listening to individuals contribute to matters regarding the management of Wimpole, and being around renowned experts in arboriculture, such as David Lonsdale, always means there’s things to talk about and much to learn. The intricacies of fungal associations with specific host trees, the destructive power of oak mildews, and the grazing of animals treated with veterinary medicines in the rhizosphere of mature and veteran trees, are not issues people would typically entertain, though in the setting of Wimpole all such discussions were completely contextual and highly valuable. The option of pollarding trees to manage for overhead power lines in the rural landscape might also make for interesting conversations in 400 years time, assuming the trees are still around and pollarded regularly. A far cry from why man traditionally pollarded trees, no doubt!
For those of you who are UK readers, please do check out the Ancient Tree Forum, and see if there’s a group local to you. For those not in the UK, perhaps there are similar organisations, and if not then perhaps even start one!
And now, for the myriad of photos (mainly of fungi on trees – who’d have guessed)…
I have segmented the below pictures into different sections, each with a title stating the fungus and the host.
Perenniporia fraxinea on Quercus robur
Pseudoinonotus dryadeus on Quercus robur
Cerioporus squamosus (syn: Polyporus squamosus) on Aesculus hippocastanum
Rigidoporus ulmarius on Aesculus hippocastanum
Inonotus hispidus on Juglans regia
Inonotus cuticularis on Fagus sylvatica