With the forest taking a deep breath before the onslaught of the latest winter storm (aka Storm Dennis), we decided to track down some ancient trees in Whitley Wood, southwest of Lyndhurst. This area of mature woodland contains some mighty Oak and Beech trees, and the target this morning was three of the former around 6 m in girth. They are part of an inventory of ancient trees in the New Forest that was produced in 1999 by Chris Read. Measurement of the tree’s girth is taken using a tape measure at a maximum height of around 1.5 m, as shown below (little helpers are optional!).
All three of the targeted trees were successfully located - the first had slightly reduced in girth since it was measured about 20 years ago, due to the loss of a limb. However, the other two had grown by around 10 and 30 cm, to 6.1 m and 6.2 m, respectively (the 6.1 m specimen is shown below). These are approximate figures, as tree measurements can vary due to burrs and other irregularities on the trunk.
All three trees seemed in overall good health, and it was interesting to see that their locations plotted on a map follow an old trackway that heads SSW from Lyndhurst. Another pair of similar-sized Oak trees the other side of the busy Lyndhurst to Brockenhurst road are adjacent to a trackway heading SSE from Lyndhurst - one theory as to why these trees were never felled for timber (despite their accessible location) was their aesthetic value to those using these old horse-and-cart routes.
One large Oak in Whitley Wood wasn’t so fortunate, however, and the fresh splintered wood of the main trunk indicated it was a recent victim of the incessant wet and windy weather this winter.
Other wildlife seen during the walk included several Hawfinch and a few clumps of Butchers Broom, including this small specimen nestling in amongst the buttressed truck of the largest Oak.
We also found some Jelly Ear fungus (pic below) which, unlike most of our fungi, can survive freezing and thawing and can therefore be encountered throughout the winter months.