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Championing the Champions?

I have been interested in veteran and other ancient trees for many years now.  I am always looking for articles on these special trees.  There is something about a gnarled old tree, whose life has spanned the centuries and may live for centuries ahead.  To me, respect is due.

I read about the Borrowdale Yews earlier this year in the British Wildlife Magazine.  There was a report about some updates in assessing their age and possible relationship.  I featured this in the Consulting Arborist Society magazine.

I recently found myself in the Borrowdale area, and took the opportunity to pay a visit to these historic trees.  In the year we celebrate 200 years since Waterloo and 800 years since Magna Carta, the Borrowdale Yews put this time line in to context.  They may have been growing at the time of Christ, and were likely to be more than 1000 years old when Magna Carta was signed.

Are they not champions?  The Tree Council designated these threes are one of the Great British trees in June 2002 to celebrate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ll’s Golden Jubilee.

They are situated at the end of a narrow track, over a stone bridge and on a hill side.  I had to show some determination to get this far, with no indication of the champions ahead.  There is a reference to the trees on the OS map, just like to many other local features.  I passed a rambler, and wanted to check my bearings.  The rambler, walking just a few metres form the Yews, was utterly unaware of their presence or historic connections.

Getting there, I found these special trees enclosed in a fenced compound, topped with barbed wire.  A fading information board indicated some of the history.  William Wordsworth made a special journey to see these trees, and wrote about them.  He spent half a day on the journey.  When I read that, I thought this would make for a great little family outing.  I was glad to be on my own in the end as I too spend half a day trying to find them.

The trees are surrounded by the fence, which is uninviting, with a stile providing access within.  Care is needed when leaving as the style is wobbly and has seen better days.  The trees themselves are showing the signs of their vintage, and storms have caused some damage.  I appreciate that public access to veteran trees needs to be carefully managed, as compaction can cause considerable damage to the roots.  It was ironic, to me, therefore, to see the sign from the Tree Council within the compound, and not on the outside.

I am involved with a project where we are using NFC tags and beacons to ‘talk’ to smart phones and tablets, and enable access to information.  A beacon can link up with a phone up to 100 metres away.  As I took my leave of this site, I pondered on how these champions are being ignored, and wondered whether a beacon would raise their profile.  Maybe by the time of my next visit?