Ancient Tree Hunts: Linking the Cultural and the Natural, both Past and Present

Written by Sarah Sall, Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership

Having attended an excellent training day by the Ancient Tree Hunt I felt inspired to try and link two aspects of our Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership’s (CAVLP) work – the natural heritage and a newly understood aspect of its cultural heritage. As a result today I am sending out my second Ancient Tree Hunt schedule to some eagerly awaiting volunteers, who are going to help us record many special trees in the designed landscape of Dalzell Estate in North Lanarkshire and the neighbouring RSPB Scotland nature reserve of Baron’s Haugh.

Search Room

Looking at maps at the new Search Room at New Lanark World Heritage Site

This session will build on the success of my first attempt, which for me as a practical conservationist of the natural environment, involved guiding volunteers through the newly launched Search Room at New Lanark World Heritage Site. Thankfully I have a very knowledgeable archaeologist working alongside me, and so with her help and the wonderful induction by staff from the New Lanark Trust, myself and the volunteers learnt about the wonders of first edition maps, using famous artists paintings (admittedly with a pinch of salt in some cases) and photographs. Added to this I had the world of SCRAN and E-hive opened up to me. I obviously have an untapped enthusiasm for this sort of work and really enjoyed having hands on access. Of course the Ancient Tree Hunt pages on The Woodlands Trust website gives you access to first edition maps and modern aerial shots so as you can see if there’s the possibility of the trees of the past still being present in our landscape now, but having actual maps to run your fingers over makes for a more tactile link to the past – even if they were copies.

The following day we headed out to look for the ancient trees of the Falls Of Clyde National Nature Reserve, managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.  As suspected we found old Douglas fir trees and a wonderful Sessil oak, complete with “chicken of the woods” fungi.


Chicken of the woods fungi


Sessil oak


So here I am gearing up for our second Ancient Tree Hunt and I get to re-pay our archaeologist by sharing the data collection techniques of all this research, bring on the tape measures, GPS, clipboards and thermos.  Thankfully it’s not backbreaking work like digging and spending time out amongst the trees is always energising and enjoyable in my opinion.