About the project

Purbeck’s Precious Past project builds on existing knowledge of the ancient and veteran trees and their associated wildlife in selected target areas in Purbeck, with a view to adding to this dataset and working to protect our local tree heritage.

The 4 areas are all within the Wytch Farm Landscape area and are centred around Studland, Arne, East Holme and Creech, where there are good examples of veteran and ancient trees.

Citizen science

A key aim is to engage the local community in their tree heritage and secure the future of these veteran and ancient trees, taking a citizen science approach. We will gather seed from this historic local stock, grow on the next generation of trees and use these saplings to plant hedges and in new woodland projects in the target area.

Mature trees will also be surveyed for suitability for veteranisation. This management technique aims to increase structural diversity within veteran tree areas by creating new habitat niches. This will improve resilience and connectivity for the wildlife that depends on veteran trees.

Lime seed collection

What are veteran trees?

As well as supporting a dizzying array of specialist fauna and flora, including lichens, mosses, fungi, bats, birds and insects, veteran trees are a living link to our past. Many contain the genes of the original wild habitats and live to a great age.

With English Oak and Yew trees that would have been around at the time of Corfe Castles heyday and some older than even Henry VII, Purbeck has many examples of veteran and notable trees of a range of species including veteran Field maples, Hollies, Beech and Elm.

Oak Tree, Studland (c) Sarah Spurling

These trees are irreplaceable and with the next generations, from saplings to mature trees in their prime just as precious, it is crucially important to recognise and protect our majestic trees and maintain a continuity of habitat for the wildlife they support before it is too late.

With care and selective management and the cultivation of new plants grown from the seeds of veteran trees we can help protect this natural heritage for years to come.

Come with us on this journey of discovery as we find out about and celebrate Purbecks Precious Past…

Yew Tree, Studland (c) Sarah Spurling, Veteran Tree Project

Support for this project

This project is funded by the Wytch Farm Landscape and Access Enhancement Fund,  a grant fund established to enhance the landscape around Wytch Farm oilfield and is supported by Dorset National Landscape team, Dorset Council, Natural England and Perenco UK. The Fund is allocated to projects that moderate the impacts of the oilfield on the local landscape, wildlife and rights of way.

Volunteer group at Arne

Want to get involved?

There is much scope for volunteer and student involvement in the tree nurseries and also surveys and recording. We will be collecting seeds from veteran trees and creating tree nurseries to grow them on and ultimately plant them out in the Purbeck area, north of the chalk ridge. Currently we will have a small tree nursery hosted by Leeson House Outdoor Centre and a nursery bed on a National Trust site in Studland.

The focus is on veteran trees but also, we will be working to cultivate local specialities such as Black Poplar, Wych Elm and Small leaved lime and also with further research, ash from trees that have so far survived ash dieback.

You could also get involved in mapping and surveys of fungi, bats and other groups.