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Yateley Ancient Oaks Initiative


Progress Report no. 1 - Presented to the Yateley Society Executive Committee 1 September 2003




The Yateley Society has initiated a survey of oak trees in Yateley and Eversley. The first objective is to determine whether any ancient. oaks (as defined by the Ancient Tree Forum) still exist. Research carried out for the second Cobbetts Lane Public Inquiry in 1994 found that the ancient field boundaries in that area contained lapsed pollarded oaks. The second objective of the initiative is to determine what can be learned about historical tree management practices in growing timber for building construction. Dating such trees may also throw light on the origins of the field systems. The initial stage of the survey is to select 15 oaks for examination using scientific tree-ring dating techniques (dendrochronology). This first stage is therefore being treated as a pilot with a view to seeking partners and funding to extend the dendrochronology studies should interesting data be obtained. Whether or not the pilot dendrochronological results prove interesting, it is intended to continue to catalogue oaks in Yateley and Eversley with girth measurements of greater than 4 metres (diameter at breast height. of 1.25 metres).


If an on-going dendrochronological project can be achieved it is hoped to construct tree-ring master reference chronologies for Yateley from the data obtained from the living trees. This may be of assistance in determining felling dates for the timber used to construct old buildings in Yateley and the surrounding parishes.


Three worthwhile bonuses from the tree-ring analysis will be (i) the light it will shed on climate changes in Yateley, (ii) the establishment of the conservation value, and therefore the better protection of these veteran trees, and (iii) to establish girth-to-age relationships to compare with calculations done using the Forestry Commission method.




On 8 July 2003 members of the Society.s project team held a meeting with Jill Butler of the Woodland Trust and Ted Green of the Ancient Tree Forum. The Woodland Trust and the Ancient Tree Forum work closely in partnership to raise awareness about the importance of ancient trees and campaign to protect them. They are currently seeking project funding for a national survey of ancient trees on a village-by-village basis, and therefore see the Society's project as a useful pilot for their nationwide survey.


Society project participants were given training in tree surveying and calculating diameter at breast height.. This was accomplished during a visit to Footpath 20 near Hill Farm, Yateley. A visit to Glaston Hill House in Eversley had been prearranged for the same evening to survey the ancient oak by the house. The impressive tree was pronounced to be at least 400 years old.


As a guide for selecting suitable trees for the pilot dendro-dating project the Woodland Trust provided a copy of the Forestry Commission paper .Estimating the Age of Large and Veteran Trees in Britain., John White Nov 1998. The assessment sheet from this paper as been set up on a database to calculate tree age from the data provided in the John White paper. The Glaston Hill House oak calculates as having a date of 1601 using this method.


Tree-Ring Services had provided a quotation for coring and dating 15 oaks for a pilot study which was considered at the Society Executive Committee held on 30 June. The pilot study was approved in principle, and the Executive Committee had authorised the Hon. Treasurer to invite Tree-Ring Services to provide a draft Project Justification and Method Statement for the dendrodating of the 15 oaks for the pilot study. Andy Moir, the dendrochronologist, is well known to the Woodland Trust and Jill Butler had recently provided Tree-Ring Services with a best practice statement. for coring live ancient oak trees. Andy Moir's Project Justification and Method Statement for the coring and dendro-dating has now been received and is distributed to project partners with this report.




Hampshire County Council


Since it is intended to dendro-date, by coring, a proportion of the ancient trees found in the field survey, it will be necessary to obtain the permission of land owners. Since it was initially thought that most of the oldest trees would be found on the boundaries formed by ancient field systems and common land, permission was first sought from Hampshire County Council at the Common Management Committee held on the 17 June 2003. Permission was readily given on certain conditions, including pre-approval by the County.s Arboriculturalist, the submission by the Society of a Project Justification, Method Statement, Health & Safety Risk Assessment and proof of suitable insurance cover. Subsequently the County Arboriculturalist, giving his approval, requested that he be present at the coring, out of interest. Should the pilot study prove successful then Hampshire County Council Countryside Service may provide funding for a second stage dendrochronological study.


Yateley Town Council


The Commons Ranger pointed out that footpath 20 was in the ownership of Yateley Town Council, and had never been transferred to the County. Permission was therefore sought and obtained from the Town Council.

Hart District Council


The Society's Newsletter asked members to phone in to report large oak trees in their gardens, or seen whilst out walking. It very quickly became apparent that there are some large oaks in the Cricket Hill Conservation Area in and around the boundaries with the Royal Oak Valley. Some of these oaks are in private gardens behind the Cricket Green and in Old Welmore. However Royal Oak Valley is owned by Hart District Council so permission was sought, and granted, to survey Hart's land. The Society had been responsible for clearing and restoring the Royal Oak Valley in the 1980s.


As the Local Planning Authority Hart keeps the list of Tree Protection Orders (TPO). Hart was therefore also approached as to whether it would be possible for the Society to obtain a specific listing of protected oaks in Yateley and Eversley. A list of TPOed trees had been provided in the 1980s when the Society participated in Hart's Tree Warden Scheme. Hart's Landscape and Conservation Officer is happy to provide data to the Society on the understanding that the Society will provide Hart with its field survey results. To exchange data Hart will periodically provide access for the Society to a desk and computer to enter tree positions and data into Hart's GIS system. This data can then be transferred to the County using the same software. One member of the Society.s survey team owns his own handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) instrument, so that tree locations will be very precise.




Apart from the trees surveyed on the training evening with Jill Butler and Ted Green, project team members have made two further survey expeditions. Four members measured and resurveyed trees on Footpath 20, and all the oaks marking the boundary to the site of the old Ely Beerhouse before it was removed to its present position on the A30.


The two most interesting oaks on Footpath 20 are a lapsed pollard to the north of the track within the land owned by Hill Farm. The date of the Baggs Pollard calculated by the Forestry Commission method is 1733 and the date of corner marker at the NW of Cottage Farm is 1851.


The old site of the Ely Beerhouse is currently (August 2003) being investigated by Carol White with a team of archaeology students drawn from Farnborough Technical College and Basingstoke Technical College. Dendro-dating of the boundary oaks would contribute to archaeological findings.


One of the marker oaks, pointed out by the Chief Commons Ranger, is a pollard with very straight almost vertical timbers, with a calculated date of 1833. Another medium sized pollard has a calculated date of 1835.

Two oaks in adjacent gardens at the rear of the Cricket Green on Cricket Hill have calculated dates of 1672 and 1809. There are several large oaks in the grounds of Yateley Manor School, the site of the manor house of the Manor of Hall Place. We are seeking permission to survey.


A complete circumperambulation has been made of the southern fields of Cottage and Hill Farms. It is intended that a full survey will be carried out, as advised by the Ancient Tree Forum, after leafdrop in the winter. However the most interesting and most readily accessible trees have already been surveyed. These include a very interesting oak at the left hand side of the entrance to the Land Bank. This tree is growing on the field boundary bank and has an elongated trunk of over two metres in its longest dimension. Three upright timbers grow about 60 cm apart along the top of the trunk forming a cruck at about one metre from the bottom of the bank. A fourth upright sub-truck has broken off or been removed, perhaps to allow the entrance to the field of which the Land Bank forms part. Further specimens of a similar elongated growth can be found on the eastern boundary near to Stroud Pool.


An interesting check on the Forestry Commission dating calculations has been carried out on the Coronation Oak on Yateley Green, planted to commemorate the coronation of 1911. Using the John White method this tree dates at 1891, indicating that it was perhaps 20 years old when replanted into its present position. Although John White did not develop his method for young trees this result is at least in the realms of feasibility.




The methodology for the survey of ancient oaks has been established and fieldwork has commenced -- particularly in the Hall Farm/Cottage Farm area, and around the Royal Oak Valley. Fieldwork has not started in Eversley since most trees are on private land. However permissions are been sought including permission to survey the famous Charles Kingsley oak on the Mount above Eversley Church. Further field work in Yateley will be carried out to establish the survival of ancient oaks which may be associated with the ancient common field system.


It is anticipated that 15 suitable ancient oaks can be identified for coring in early September for dendrochronological analysis. Trees must now be selected for the pilot study, in consultation with the dendrochronologist, to facilitate the wider objectives of the project.

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