The Stoke Lodge Lucombe Oak wins Bristol Tree of the Year 2018

We are delighted to announce that the winner of the inaugural Bristol Tree Forum’s Tree of the Year competition is the Lucombe Oak, submitted by the community group We Love Stoke LodgeThe Lucombe Oak was a clear winner with 584 votes out of the 1,269 confirmed votes cast for the eleven entries. 

We Love Stoke Lodge is an informal community group of local residents based around Stoke Lodge, a 26-acre park and recreational area in Stoke Bishop in the north-west of Bristol.

The group writes:

The Lucombe Oak is a cross between a Turkey Oak and a Cork Oak. It was first raised by an Exeter nurseryman, William Lucombe, in 1762. It is unusual in the fact that it keeps its leaves over winter. The story goes that William Lucombe was so attached to his special oak that he felled the original specimen to provide wood for his own coffin and kept the boards under his bed until he died. However, he lived an exceptionally long life, dying at the age of 102 years, by which time the planks had decayed in the Devon damp. To quote an article from Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, this showed ‘that Lucombe knew more about growing trees than preserving them’. On his death timber from one of his early propagations was used to make his coffin instead.

Notwithstanding the tree’s fascinating history, so many of our community hold treasured memories of this tree dating back over four generations. At a recent community picnic those in their nineties sat alongside primary school children of today talking about the best picnics they have had under our beloved tree and sharing tips on how to climb it wonderful branches. This tree is the meeting point for many sports and well-being groups. Its branches shade baby groups, yoga classes, families and friends from the sun (and the rain) every day – as it has done for hundreds of years ! This tree is a not just located in the centre of our community, it is part of it.

The runner-up is the Brislington Brook Plane Tree, with 399 votes and submitted by Friends of Brislington Brook, a community group which works to enhance and look after the green spaces that are Nightingale Valley and St Annes Wood

The group writes:

This giant London plane tree that dominates an area of Brislington’s Nightingale Valley is, together with the nearby pack-horse bridge, one of the features that help define this unexpected green haven. Its trunk was once an open hollow, tempting the mischievous to light fires within it so a few years ago a local action group walled it up. This has given rise to a legend that a witch is entombed within. Many generations of Brislingtonians have picnicked in its shade, swung across the brook from ropes attached to its boughs or caught tiddlers beneath it. It has a symbolic significance: It’s tall, it’s strong, it’s seen adversity, it endures.

We would like to thank all those who submitted a nominee. We were delighted to receive such a varied and eclectic range of wonderful and inspiring trees, both living and dead. An inspiration for next year’s competition.

Our congratulations to the winner and the runner-up and thank you to all those who voted.

For more information about the competition and the votes cast for each entry, click on this link – Bristol Tree of the Year 2018.

Ancient and Veteran Trees explained

These two terms are in common use, but they have specific meanings when it comes to their conservation. All ancient trees are veterans, but a tree may qualify as a veteran without being ancient.  Most British trees increase in girth over their lifetimes by 2.5 cm a year. They grow faster when young, when in the open as opposed to woodland, and when in good soil rather than bad. They grow slower as they get older. Some species grow faster than average, such as Black Poplar, Plane, and Wellingtonia, and some more slowly, especially Limes and Hawthorns.

Trees are very good at vegetative reproduction, so that they are effectively eternal. Some create their own clumps, each tree being a clone. They do this by branches that arch down to the ground, root, and send up new vertical trees. The Tortworth Chestnut, which was regarded as ancient in King Johns reign, is a good example, but some of the limes on the Downs are doing this. Some trees send up new shoots from the base of the trunk which eventually replace the original tree. Many trees if cut to the ground, by storm or men, will promptly create new shoots, and this is the basis of coppicing which was a standard woodland management tool from at least Roman times. There is a Small-leaved Lime at Westonbirt Arboretum that now consists of a ring of clones about forty metres in diameter.

Ancient trees should be at least two hundred years old, and hence have a girth of more than five metres. I have measured 120 trees in Bristol with this girth, and there are many more in Ashton Court that I have not checked.   They matter because they provide a range of habitats to a range of species. They are always hollow, often squat,  having long since lost their upper branches, their hearts eaten out by fungi and beetles, full of nooks and crannies, and often clothed in lichens and ferns. They are most frequently Oaks, Sweet Chestnuts, Planes and Cedars.

Veteran trees are defined by their individuality. They will be mature, around 140/150 years old, about three metres in girth, mostly still standing tall. Fine, significant specimens of their species both in form and biodiversity. They are candidates to become Ancient, they may be starting to go hollow, and hence be of concern. They may need management to avoid their becoming top heavy, or developing a dangerous lean. They will stand out from other trees in their particular locality and may have planning protection as a consequence. They may also have special features of note, such as being multi-trunked.

Trees and Planning

The National Policy Planning Framework document (issued in July 2018) has the following definitions at Appendix 2: Glossary.

Ancient or veteran tree: A tree which, because of its age, size and condition, is of exceptional biodiversity, cultural or heritage value. All ancient trees are veteran trees. Not all veteran trees are old enough to be ancient, but are old relative to other trees of the same species. Very few trees of any species reach the ancient life-stage.

Ancient Woodland. An area of woodland that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD. It includes ancient semi-natural woodland and plantations on ancient woodland sites.

Irreplaceable habitat: Habitats which would be technically very difficult (or take a very significant time) to restore, recreate or replace once destroyed, taking into account their
age, uniqueness, species diversity or rarity. They include…ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees….

Paragraph 175 (at page 51) of the framework states:

When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should apply the following principles:

c) development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists;

Paragraph 2.17.6 of DM17: Development Involving Existing Green Infrastructure – part of the Bristol Local Plan echoes this:

Due to their characteristics and value, Aged and Veteran trees are considered to be of relatively greater importance than other trees and even trees of a similar species. Aged trees, by definition, have developed characteristics associated with great age and often have particular landscape and townscape value. Veteran trees are considered to have particularly important nature conservation value. Both will often have significant visual amenity, and potentially historic and cultural importance. As such their loss or harm will not be permitted, and the design and layout of development will be expected to integrate them into development.

These guidelines apply whether the tree or woodland grows in a public or a private place.

R L Bland

About Richard

The Eastgate woodland copse – Decision time

We have reported on this issue a number of times already – Trees under threat at the Eastgate Centre!Trees under threat at the Eastgate Centre – Comments so far…Eastgate woodland and Eastgate Woodland – Round Three, but the Eastgate Oak and the tree community it lives within is still threatened with destruction.

Eastgate Copse_5

The Development Control Committee will be meeting this Thursday – 21 June 2018 at 2 pm to decide whether outline planning permission should be given to remove the last vestige of an older woodland that once connected the Frome & Eastville Park with St Werburgh’s and the heart of Bristol beyond and redevelop this site. Small though the copse is, it still forms part of the green space in which we live and gives pleasure to many to many of those who pass by.

Here is the location plan:

Eastgate Oak Location Plan

This is what is being proposed – the living copse is gone and a few lingering specimens are left standing alone (for how long?) like exhibits in a museum, with new plantings (what species?) dragooned into neat lines like so many extras, but away from the main commercial activity which takes centre stage:

Eastgate Proposed Layout

The paragraph headed ‘TREES’ in Development Control Committee’s summary is instructive and says it all:

‘The application was submitted with insufficient survey detail to cover all the trees on the site including the understorey, and how they would be impacted by the proposed development. However, it is clear that one mature poplar tree would remain (adjacent to the existing retail unit on the western end of the site) and possibly one mature ash tree within the remaining area of landscaping following implementation of the scheme. It should be noted that the chances of this ash tree surviving are slim, as more than 40% of its root area would be removed. In the absence of an Arboricultural Implications Assessment or an Arboricultural Method Statement it is not possible to assess whether what is shown to be retained is in fact feasible. It is highly likely that much of the existing tree cover shown to be retained will be lost. The majority of the understorey would not survive the works proposed and any remaining understorey would be unprotected and more vulnerable to adverse weather. In short, given the proposed layout the conditions suggested will only be certain of protecting one mature tree. All the remaining trees will in all likelihood be lost. In terms of the ecological quality of the trees to be lost, the following additional comments can be added: The area of green infrastructure contains six ash trees that have been identified in particular as locally notable trees of age and are characterised as being ‘transition veterans’. This means that they provide important habitat due to their age and characteristics within a heavily built-up area where habitats are limited and they have the potential to become potentially important veteran trees for biodiversity in time. It should also be noted that this group of trees provides a significantly greater ecological benefit than a single tree as proposed. The group of trees also provides an element of future proofing the site, as if a single tree is lost due to the natural laws and forces of nature others remain that continue to provide ecological benefit.’ We agree!

If Bristol City Council is serious about its long-term goal of doubling tree canopy cover to 30% by 2050, it cannot allow this endless nibbling away of the little we already have, especially in places like the Eastgate Retail Park, already the victim of an older, unenlightened and merciless policy of development ‘desertification’.

Leaving just one or two specimen trees as a token concession to us ‘tree huggers’ really no longer suffices in the face of mounting evidence that the removal of trees, especially in urban environments, is more than just a question of utility and aesthetics, but impacts us and the world we live in immediate and direct ways by damaging our physical and emotional well-being and degrading the environment we depend on.

It is too late to submit questions, but petitions and statements may still be lodged as long as they are received by the Council at the latest by 12 Noon this Wednesday, 20 June.  They can be emailed to democratic.services@bristol.gov.uk.

Statements will not be accepted after 12.00 noon on the working day before the meeting unless they have been submitted in advance to Bristol City Council but were not received by the Democratic Services Section. Anyone submitting a statement for an application will also be allowed to speak in support of it at the meeting.

‘If the end of the world were imminent, I still would plant a tree today.’

So wrote Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father.

Bristol’s Anne Frank tree was planted in her memory on 12 June 2009 on what would have been her 80th birthday. It can be found in Brandon Hill Park.

By Unknown photographer; Collectie Anne Frank Stichting Amsterdam (Website Anne Frank Stichting, Amsterdam) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By Unknown photographer; Collectie Anne Frank Stichting Amsterdam (Website Anne Frank Stichting, Amsterdam) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The tree, a Ginkgo biloba, was one of many such trees planted in memory of Anne Frank throughout the country. The tree-planting ceremony was held nine years ago to mark the 80th anniversary of her birth and took place after the city had hosted a touring exhibition in the cathedral, which attracted more than 10,000 people and 25 school groups.

Anne Frank and other members of her family were among millions of Jews murdered in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Jon House, Deputy Chief Executive of Bristol City Council, who led the event, said ‘Anne Frank has become a symbol of the millions who have suffered persecution throughout the world because of prejudice and hatred and the ongoing fight to challenge it that we all share. Bristol City Council has an important leadership role to play in bringing communities together and building better neighbourhoods, creating equality of opportunity for everyone and defending the most disadvantaged in our city.’

A chestnut tree behind the secret annex in Amsterdam where Anne and her family hid was one of Anne’s only links to the outside world during her years in hiding, but, by 2009 it had become diseased. This tree in Bristol, and many others like it, reminds us of the consolation and pleasure that trees can bring us, and of the tragedy that befell Anne, her family and all those who have suffered persecution. The Anne Frank trees planted throughout Britain were intended to ensure that her story is not forgotten.

If Anne were alive today, she would be 89 years old next Tuesday.

You can visit the tree and remember Anne at Brandon Hill Park near the Charlotte Street entrance. It is planted here.