Church Stretton Venerable, Veteran and Ancient Trees
Venerable, Veteran and Ancient Trees in Church Stretton, Mortimer Country, north Herefordshire
Despite their immense size and long history, they are so much a part of our daily lives that we often fail to notice them. These are trees that are living relics of incredible age supporting wildlife and habitat features that cannot live anywhere else. These include hollowing, holes, large dead branches and decay fungi. At the mature stage of life they shrink with age and are usually fatter and shorter than any other tree in the area. Standing and watching over the landscape for century after century they have inspired feelings of awe and mystery and are mentioned in sacred texts.
Rich in ancient woodland within Mortimer Country surviving trees can be found in the remnants of Royal Hunting forests (Bringewood Chase, Mortimer Forest) or medieval deer parks (Brampton Bryan). Individual specimens can be found in historic parkland (Croft Castle Estate); wood pastures and ancient wooded commons (Shobdon Hill) and within the grounds of historic buildings (the avenue of sweet chestnuts at Croft Castle).
Whilst walking or cycling in Mortimer Country it is not unusual to glimpse a venerable tree on farmland or in a church yard.
Croft Castle is a particularly good place to explore the landscape of veteran trees
There is a wealth of veteran trees at Croft, all with their own legend to tell. In fact, the Croft estate is one of the top ten sites in the country for the quality and diversity of ancient trees.
From the 1,000 year oak to the row of Spanish chestnuts, these majestic trees offer a glimpse of the history of the parkland.
Trees of this age are rare in Europe and Croft is particularly lucky to have so many survivors.
Our Quarry Oak
There is an oak tree which is dated from 1,000 years ago. It is protected by a sheltered position near a quarry and is still a healthy tree but one that we treat gently and with great respect.
Near to the Castle is the Spanish chestnut avenue which was the original formal approach to the Castle. Aerial views of the avenue show lines and clumps of these trees which could represent a battle.
The story told is that the chestnuts were taken from captured Spanish vessels during the battle of the Spanish Armada (1588) and planted at Croft between 1580 and 1680 and represent the formal battle plan of the ships at the Armada.